Teacher, Two Aides Charged in Abuse of Children With Autism

A special education teacher and two aides have been arrested for abusing three autistic children at Silver Sands School in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.


Between Sept. 1 and Nov. 14, 48-year-old Margaret Wolthers and her two assistants Carolyn Madison, 47, and Dana LaCroix, 52, locked three children with autism into a bathroom with the doors shut and the lights off.

In addition, the “educator” blew a whistle into the ear of one child who wore earphones to protect him from loud noises. They also threatened him with the whistle.

Two witnesses who saw the abuse notified the school resource officer, who, in turn, called the Child Abuse hotline. The sheriff for Okaloosa County, Larry Ashley, admitted that one of the teachers is the wife of his deputy, and the investigation is ongoing.

“It was learned that Wolthers, Madison and LaCroix were placing three autistic childreninto a pitch-black classroom bathroom for punishment,” Ashley told local reporters. “There was no supervision in the bathroom at the time. One student, per the witness, was held for 90 minutes. The other two students were held for unreasonable amounts of time.”

Ashley stated that, according to the principal, “the school does not allow for seclusion without supervision as a form of punishment and it is prohibited.” He also noted “holding a student captive while blowing a whistle in their ears is not an acceptable form of discipline or protocol.”

LaCroix and Madison are out on $10,000 bond and Wolthers was booked Tuesday with no bail listed.

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