Three Florida staffers at a school for special needs were placed on leave and arrested for allegedly tormenting children with autism.

A teacher and two aides allegedly punished several students by locking them in a dark bathroom at Silver Sands School in Okaloosa County. According to Okaloosa Sheriff Larry Ashley, the abuse had been “going on for some time” — from September 1 to November 14.

The victims are between the ages of 8 and 10. Ashley said that if they got out of hand, teacher Margaret Wolthers, 48, and two classroom aides, Diana LaCroix, 52, and Carolyn Madison, 47, would discipline the students through threats. Ashley told reporters:

“It was learned that Wolthers, Madison and LaCroix were placing three autistic children…into a pitch-black classroom bathroom for punishment.

There was no supervision in the bathroom at the time. One student, per the witness, was held for 90 minutes. The other two students were held for an unreasonable amounts of time.”

There were times the district employees would allegedly “intentionally and maliciously” blow a loud whistle in the children’s ear as a punishment to threaten them into obedience. One of the students wore earphones to protect him from loud noises, reports the Miami Herald.

Ashley said there were plenty of times they could have notified the school’s principal or staff members for behavior that was difficult to manage. He explained:

“Likewise, holding a student captive while blowing a whistle in their ear is not an acceptable form of discipline or proper protocol of correcting this behavior.”

Eventually, two other employees at the school reported their colleagues to a school resource officer. He contacted an abuse hotline “sparking an investigation,” reports Newsweek.

Silver Sands Superintendent Marcus Chambers told the Daily Beast that the district is working to improve special needs training. He said:

“We need to do even better.”

The three employees were charged on Monday with abusing children with autism. They’re suspended with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

Watch the press conference below:

About the author

Tiffani is a writer for Dearly. She is from New York City. Prior to working for Dearly she covered fashion news and managed social media for various digital media outlets.

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14 Replies to “Coworker Called School Police on 3 Teachers Who Punished Students With Autism by Locking Them in Dark Room”

  • Rhonda Scott 2 years ago

    Are you SERIOUS That’s Just Disgusting they Have Autism REALLY they need to Lose they’re job, and Be Arrested.Thats Bullying they probably already get Bullied And you Suppose to be there to Protect them. If you didnt wnt the Job and you Couldnt handle it You should have went into another field.

  • Tina 2 years ago

    Suspended WITH pay? For torturing children that depend on the very people that were torturing them for protection, guidance and life skills! This is BS and all parents with children in that school need to demand more from that school.

  • Craig Murphy 2 years ago

    No, no, they were just developing photographs

  • Franklin Ellyson 2 years ago

    Suspend them without pay. Why do you need time to investigate, it should be over the day they were caught and arrested.

  • Anonymous 2 years ago

    What idiots! And that goes for the administration for only spanking their hands with a suspension with pay! Those kids have been abused in the worst way!!

  • darla 2 years ago

    these are not teachers they are abusive bullys who should be locked in solitary for the rest of there lives with a shrill whistle going off in there cell 24-7! As the mother of a young man in the spectrum I can tell you it takes a lot of hard work and patience to raise and teach them -you constantly have to be creative and thinking of new ways to help them -cruel and unusual punishment will only make the situation worse-something to understand those in the spectrum need to be on a set agenda changing plans-trying to get them to do something out of the usual routine is hard for them to handle – and if you are not patient and willing to work with them to overcome and accept the change it only becomes harder for them to understand and do what it is you are trying to get them to do.

  • Ian Bell 2 years ago

    Again, it’s Florida? Who is the person who hired them? Did they really have the proper credentials to teach children with special needs? If not properly screened the person who hired them should be fired.
    WHY, may I ask, are they just “suspended with pay” pending the “Investigation”? Who’s doing the investigating? I hope it’s not the School District. They have committed a Felony and should be Indicted and Bail Determined and the Investigation should be done by the District Attorney!

  • Robert Miles 2 years ago

    Should they be convicted of child abuse, then jailed with all the other prisoners told that they were convicted of child abuse? That would make their stay in prison especially unpleasant.

  • Anonymous 2 years ago

    I have an autistic grandson who has always had difficulty with loud and/or
    high pitch sounds. SHAME ON THIS ENTIRE DISTRICT!!! For the Superintendent to say “we have to do ebem better” is an outrage! “Even better than torturing special needs students”??
    Obviously this man shouls be removed if this is his standard. The 3 teachers are on PAID leave???? Whst kind of an institution is acceptable in this State??
    The three quasi teachers should be summarily terminated. They should NOT be receiving pay while the district
    attorney files to gav them artested for extreme cruelty to handicapped children.
    This is horrendous. Perhaps the Federal Dept. of Health, Education should be contacted.

  • Anonymous 2 years ago

    They should be locked in a room with the parents let the parents dole out punishment. I know if that was a child of mine I would beat the brakes off or them. Then fire their asses.

  • Anonymous 2 years ago

    Why in God’s name are they getting their pay!!!! They have a lot of witnesses!! They money should go to help the children deal with the hell they put them threw!!

  • Anonymous 2 years ago

    I can’t even finish this horror story. Where are all of the ADULTS in that school? They are ALL MADATED REPORTERS. Come on. Anyone who didn’t immediately report (that had any idea abuse was going on) should also be held accountable AND lose their credentials and clearances. Zero tolerance.

  • Ken Little 2 years ago

    This type of staff behavior is not terribly unusual and is not limited to autistic children. It happens at behavioral programs widely. The job is very difficult. Staff need to be well trained and well supervised.

  • Cynthia Beard 2 years ago

    This is absolutely reprehensible! To suspend these employees w/pay makes it even worse! These are evil, evil people!

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