Two instructors at the New Horizons Center for Autism are facing charges in connection with the assault of a student with autism on school property on Friday.
On the morning of May 16, an NHCA staff member heard a child screaming in a classroom. Upon entering, she saw a teaching assistant chasing a 13-year-old special needs student around the classroom. After catching him, the assistant allegedly began sticking the child in the arm multiple times with a push pin. She then lifted the student’s shirt and cleaned his wounds with a cleaning wipe, causing him further pain.
According to the witness, another teacher in the room at the time of the assault could be heard conspiring with the teaching assistant to cover up the incident by saying the push-pin marks were bug bites.
The witness immediately reported the incident to the NHCA administration, which reported it to Child Protective Services.
On May 18, York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office investigators conducted an investigation of the case; warrants were then obtained for 45-year-old Diane “Renee” Smith and 35-year-old Darcie Badami.
Smith lives on the 400 block of Rockwell Road in Hampton, and has been charged with Assault and Battery and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. She turned herself in to the Hampton Police Department.
Badami, of the 200 block of Smith Street in Yorktown, has been charged with Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. She turned herself in to investigators and was released on permitted warrants.
The York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate to ensure that there are no other victims at the school.
Joe Johnson, the director of NHCA, told WVEC, “One of the things we are concerned about is the safety and well-being of our students. We address anything that comes to light.”
NCHA is a separate school housed within Yorktown Middle School.
WVEC reports that both Badami and Smith have been placed on leave.
Anyone with information about this incident is urged to call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.
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