FREEPORT — The Walton County School District plans to launch an internal investigation of a Freeport teacher's aide accused of abusing special needs children.
The decision, made by Superintendent Russell Hughes, comes one day after the State Attorney's Office announced that its investigation found insufficient evidence to charge the aide, Kelly Woodworth.
Hughes said Tuesday he will wait for the State Attorney's Office and Walton County Sheriff's Office to give him the final reports before launching the investigation and, ultimately, deciding if disciplinary action needs to be taken against Woodworth.
The investigations began in February after a special needs student accused Woodworth of flipping over her desk while she was still seated in it.
The aide was also accused of grabbing a boy by the arm to pull him out of a chair and pulling a chair from under another boy while he was asleep.
The special education teacher, Terrica Carlock, confirmed the female student’s allegation during a parent-teacher meeting, according to the parents. The teacher said the incident occurred in October.
Carlock was fired from Freeport High School about a week after the parent-teacher meeting for an undisclosed reason. She was later re-hired and placed on administrative leave until all investigations are complete.
Woodworth was also removed from the campus during the course of the investigations.
The Sheriff's Office released its 72-page investigative report late Tuesday evening, with interviews from several eyewitnesses to the alleged abuse.
One of the witnesses, interpreter Maria Ally Bleavens, said she saw Woodworth lift up part of the female student's desk because she was sleeping, the report said. Bleavens said the student then slid out of the chair and onto the floor.
Bleavens also witnessed the incident where Woodworth allegedly pulled a chair from under another sleeping student in an attempt to wake him. That student, Bleavens said to investigators, grabbed the desk to keep himself from falling on the floor.
Bleavens said she believed Woodworth's temperament around special needs students was questionable, but did not believe what she saw was considered abuse.
Carlock agreed to talk with a Daily News reporter on Tuesday, stating she did not believe the investigation was complete because she was never interviewed. Carlock said she did receive a phone call from someone to set up an interview, but she told them to go through her attorney.
Carlock said, to the best of her knowledge, no one ever called her attorney to set up an interview.
"Given that I am an eyewitness and I was the one who completed the affidavit and I haven’t been interviewed, I don’t understand how the investigation is complete," she said.
Investigators said, however, they tried several times to set up interviews through Carlock and her attorney.
The teacher's aide accused of the abuse got a chance to defend her actions to investigators, according to the report.
During an interview, Woodworth did admit to lifting the back of the special needs student's chair to wake her up. She said she slid out of the seat and landed on her butt.
Woodworth said she had no intention of dumping the student from her chair.
The aide also admitted to pulling a chair from under another student while he was asleep at the computer desk. She said she did so to wake the student up and get him to stand.
Investigators said in the report there was no evidence proving Woodworth intentionally inflicted physical or mental injury to any child at Freeport. Therefore, the aide's actions were not considered abuse.
The State Attorney's Office agreed.
It's now up to the Walton County School District investigators to decide if the teacher broke board policy, or any other codes of conduct, and if appropriate action will be taken.