FL Teacher, aides punished children with autism using dark bathroom, loud whistle, investigators say

Left to right: Sharen Burt, Carolyn Madison, Diana LaCroix
Left to right: Sharen Burt, Carolyn Madison, Diana LaCroix(KNOE)
Published: Jan. 29, 2019 at 1:54 PM CST
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OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - An Okaloosa County teacher and two aides are accused of abusing three autistic children.

Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley said Monday the incidents took place between September 1 and November 14, 2018. He says a teacher and two aides were investigated after a witness reported them to the Silver Sands School Resource Officer.

Investigators with the OCSO say on different occasions the teacher, Margaret Wolthers, 48, and aides, Diana LaCroix and Carolyn Madison, "intentionally and maliciously" blew a whistle int the ear of a child with a low sensory auditory threshold who wore earphones to protect him from loud noises. They say the teacher and aides would also threaten him with the whistle. Investigators also say the children were also individually and on separate occasions in the classroom bathroom with the door closed and lights off as punishment for misbehavior. Witnesses say the children would scream and cry when put in the bathroom and they say one child was left in the bathroom for an hour and a half.

Two of the children are eight years old and the other child is ten years old.

Sheriff Ashley said in an unrelated incident, a guidance counselor at Shalimar Elementary School is charged with failure to report child abuse. Investigators say Sharen Burt, a mandatory reporter, did not tell the Florida Department of Children and Families last October that a five year old student had allegedly been sexually abused by another student. Burt called and told an employee of the Boys and Girls Club where she thought the incident happened, but never made the notification to the state.

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