Private School Principal Charged With Abuse Of Disabled 11-Year-Old

Ronda Steinke-McDonald, 51, the principal of New Leaf School for Change, has been charged with child abuse after a disabled 11-year-old sustained cuts and bruises, according to Neptune Beach police.

According to the school’s website, they deal with students grades 1-12 who are “the overwhelmed, the underlooked, and the underachieving.” They deal largely with students who have learning disabilities or “emotional difficulties.”

Neptune Beach Lieutenant Adam Militello says the 11-year-old with Downs Syndrome was “being defiant in the classroom, just basically laying on the floor.”

Police say that Steinke-McDonald and a teacher were trying to persuade the student to go back to his seat. The child refused, so they tried to pick up the boy and carry him out of the classroom but that “proved too difficult,” according to the police report.

“I never for the impression, speaking with her or witnesses, that it was an aggravated “I’m mad” kind of dragging the child,” Militello says.

The boy suffered abrasions to his abdomen and significant scrape or a rug burn on his elbow, according to authorities. Steinke-McDonald told police that it was never her intention to hurt the boy.

"She conveyed to me that if she had any indication of seeing any injury or hearing any kind of crying or wincing, according to her, she would have stopped that conduct immediately," Militello said.

Investigators with the Department of Children and Families were called to examine the boy's injuries.

John Harrell, spokesman for DCF, confirmed an investigation is in progress, but would not release any other information. However, Harrell said under similar situations, investigators would meet other students and staff to discuss what they witnessed during the incident.

The DCF would send in a child protection team to make inquiries whether child abuse or negligence occurred or possibly happen in the future.


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