Teacher and 2 aides accused of abusing children with autism at Florida school

FORT WALTON BEACH, Florida (KTRK) -- A teacher and two aides at a Florida school have been charged after allegedly abusing three children with autism repeatedly, sometimes locking the students in a dark bathroom and blowing a whistle in one student's ear.

Teacher Margaret Wolthers and teacher's aides Diana LaCroix and Carolyn Madison are all accused in the incidents, which happened between Sept. 1 and Nov. 14, 2018 at Silver Sands School in Fort Walton Beach, close to Destin.

The three women "intentionally and maliciously" blew a whistle in the ear of a child with a low sensory auditory threshold and who wore headphones to protect him from loud noises, investigators say.

The suspects also allegedly threatened him with the whistle.

On separate occasions, Wolthers, LaCroix and Madison allegedly placed the children in a classroom bathroom with the door closed and lights off as punishment when they misbehaved.

One of the kids is 10 years old. The two others are both 8 years old.

According to classroom aides who witnessed the alleged abuse, the children would scream and cry when they were put in the bathroom.

One of them was in the bathroom for up to 90 minutes.

Wolthers, LaCroix and Madison were all reported by witnesses to a Silver Sands School resource officer.

The women are all charged with aggravated child abuse, the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office said.
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