A Lincoln County High School teacher and two teacher assistants who were charged with felony second-degree criminal abuse following an altercation with a non-verbal student with autism are no longer in the classroom, Lincoln County Superintendent Michael Rowe said Thursday.
Assistants Janie Hasty and Teresa Sparkman have been fired, effective immediately, and teacher Rebecca Spurlock has been reassigned to a position at the school district’s student support center, essentially the main district office, for the rest of the year, Rowe said.
The school district had completed its initial investigation into allegations of physical abuse of the student, but could not say anything more because other agencies were still investigating.
This is at least the fifth incident involving a teacher dragging or laying hands on an autistic student in Kentucky since the school year began in August. The others, involving staff dragging students with autism, were in Fayette, Greenup and Jefferson counties.
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Of the three educators charged in Lincoln, only the criminal summons against Spurlock was immediately available in court records Thursday because only she has received the citation, Lincoln County Attorney Daryl Day said. Police told Day there was a video of the incident, he said.
That summons said the student was walking around the room of a special education class on January 3 when “Janie Hasty starts punching at his head, taunting the student.”
The assistants had the student “in the corner on the ground,” the summons said, “Janie twisted his arm and then pulled him up off the ground and shoved him.”
At one point, Sparkman laughed, according to the summons. When a food cart was brought into the classroom and the student approached it to get his food, Hasty allegedly pushed him down, the summon said, and the student got up by himself.
The summons said that Spurlock was standing with eight or nine students and at no point tried to intervene or stop the incident from happening.
The Interior-Journal in Lincoln County reported that Rowe issued a statement on Tuesday saying “if the investigation confirms the allegations, I will be sickened and dismayed.
“School employees are placed in a position of absolute trust. Students and their families should always have confidence in that. We realize trust within our own system may have been broken due to the actions of a few. This does not reflect our staff overall, and we will work diligently to regain the trust and confidence in us,” he said.