School: Teaching aide let go, not fired after reporting child abuse

Published: Feb. 13, 2013 at 3:33 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 14, 2013 at 9:08 PM EST
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SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - The teacher's assistant who authorities say reported child abuse at the Summerville Montessori School of the Arts has been let go, not fired, according to the school's lawyer.

Savannah Williams told Reporter Harve Jacobs she had been terminated Thursday morning. An attorney for the school, Dave Savage, says Williams was let go after parents began pulling their kids out of the teacher's class.

When Jacobs reached out to the school's owner and director, Elizabeth Cane, she declined to comment.

On Wednesday, Cane said the teacher accused of abusing children at the school located in Knightsville was placed on administrative leave without pay, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Savage said only one kid showed up to that teacher's class on Thursday morning.

According to an incident report, the investigation into the abuse began last Friday, when a teacher's assistant told investigators she had seen a teacher lock "upset four-year-old students in a dark bathroom and force them to sit on the floor."

Williams also said she had seen the teacher force a child to eat, and when the child refused, the teacher physically held the child's head back, and kept it back until she swallowed the food. The teacher also placed duct tape on the mouth of a four-year-old boy who was being disruptive, the assistant added.

The assistant told investigators she had reported the incident to the school's administrator, but no action was taken, the report states.

On Tuesday, investigators spoke with the mother of a student at the school. The mother said her three-year-old daughter, who was in the aforementioned teacher's class, told her that her teacher had hit her. Furthermore, the mother said her three-year-old recently took a piece of packaging tape and put it forcibly over her mouth, held there, and angrily exclaimed, "Now you be quiet!"

The mother told investigators this behavior from her daughter was very confusing, as neither she nor the child's father had cable television. The mother said she was sure her daughter had not seen that kind of behavior on television.

Investigators checked with Dorchester County DSS to see if there had ever been any complaints filed against the teacher, but DSS said no cases were ever investigated.

On Tuesday night, detectives executed a search warrant at the Mayrant Street school.

The investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed, according to the sheriff's office.

Cane released the following statement on Wednesday:

The school is cooperating with all personnel who are investigating this matter and have been from the start.  When contacted about a possible incident, I went to the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office for more information.  They said they could not talk to me at [the] time.  I left my contact information and asked that someone contact me as soon as possible.  They have contacted us at this point and the investigation is underway.  We are full cooperating on this matter.

We are sad that our families are experiencing this and seek to understand all facts involved.

The Dorchester County investigator has asked that we not make anymore statements as that could jeopardize their investigation or prevent a proper and full investigation.

Please know the safety and well-being of the children is our top priority at all times.  We apologize for not being able to answer any further questions at this time.

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