FREEPORT — An investigation into alleged child abuse against special needs students at Freeport High School ended with a teacher being fired and that teacher's aide being reprimanded and suspended for five days.
Both employees were notified last month, according to documents obtained Monday by the Daily News.
The investigation began back in February when parents refused to allow their 10 special need students at Freeport High School to attend class after learning of alleged physical and mental abuse by teacher's aide Kelly Woodworth.
Terrica Carlock, the teacher in the classroom, confirmed allegations made against Woodworth by one of her students, stating the aide flipped over the student's desk while she was sitting in it.
Carlock later informed parents of other alleged abuses by Woodworth. She said she reported her concerns to administrators when the incidents occurred, in addition to reporting it to the Department of Children and Families.
The State Attorney's Office and the Walton County Sheriff's Office both investigated the allegations, each finding insufficient evidence to criminally charge Woodworth.
The Walton County School District, following the State Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Office investigations, hired an outside investigator to determine whether district policy was breached.
The investigator, according to a termination letter written to Carlock, deduced Carlock made "malicious and intentionally false" accusations against several Freeport High employees, including Woodworth.
Carlock, according to the letter, lied about personally witnessing the student being "dumped" from her chair. Additionally, the letter said she lied about reporting the alleged abuses to school administrators and the Department of Children and Families.
Despite Carlock's "false allegations," Woodworth still received a five-day suspension without pay and was told she would be transferred from Freeport High to another Walton County school.
Woodworth, according to a letter written to her by Superintendent Russell Hughes, admitted to investigators that she did lift the side of the sleeping student's desk, causing her to fall onto the floor. Investigators believed she did not intend for the student to fall out of the desk, but was just trying to wake the student up.
Hughes said in the letter that although Woodworth's actions did not rise to the level of criminal abuse, she did breach district policy by displaying "poor judgment" regarding physical contact with students.
Hughes told the Daily News Friday that after reviewing the investigation's findings, he believes firing Carlock and transferring Woodworth are best for all parties involved.
"Given the totality of all the things found in the investigation, I believe it would be best for the families in the community that I transfer her (Woodworth)," Hughes said. "My findings were based on investigations by three different agencies and an internal district investigation done by an outside party.
"I followed the law. I immediately went into action. Ultimately, I want to do what's right for our children."