A Starke elementary school teacher has been suspended with pay from Southside Elementary School, 823 Stansbury St., following an investigation into allegations that she physically abused a 6-year-old student with a mental disability.
Helen Haverty, 67, was at the center of a nearly monthlong Starke Police Department investigation that began in February after a report from the Florida Department of Children and Families alleged she grabbed a student’s ears, kicked him and hit him with a book bag.
Haverty has not been arrested or criminally charged. The investigation’s findings were handed over to the State Attorney’s office on Monday. Darry Lloyd, the public information officer for the State Attorney Eight Judicial Circuit, said they will review the case and decide whether or not to file charges.
David Harris, assistant superintendent of Bradford County Public Schools, told WUFT News Tuesday that they are still investigating the matter
“It’s always surprising when something of this nature takes place,” Harris said. “Obviously, the Bradford County School District wants to ensure parents, community members, all of our leaders and our parents that we take the health, safety and education of all of our students very seriously.”
The results from the police investigation paint a picture of physical abuse against a child in the exceptional student education program who has a “mental disability and is low-functioning.”
The documents allege one school employee witnessed Haverty “pull a little boy’s ear” and “[pull] his hair, too.” She also told investigators Haverty “picked his backpack up and hit him with it.”
The same employee said in another situation that Haverty “grabbed [the student] by the little ‘hair poms’ on top of his head and attempted to ‘drag’ him out from under the table” after the student would not come out from under it.
A cafeteria employee said Haverty “yanks on students quite a bit … pulls on their arms … snatches them up by their arms … and slams them down on the benches” multiple times per week, according to the investigation.
Other employees told investigators while they had not personally seen Haverty do anything they would consider physical abuse, they had seen her yell at students or sit them down roughly.
When WUFT News went to Haverty’s home and talked to her briefly on the phone, she said she had no comment about the allegations.