2 arrested for abuse at VA autism center - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

2 arrested for abuse at VA autism center

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New Horizons Center for Autism in York County, Va. (Courtesy: WAVY/Rob Rizzo) New Horizons Center for Autism in York County, Va. (Courtesy: WAVY/Rob Rizzo)
Diane Renee Smith (Courtesy Hampton Police via WAVY) Diane Renee Smith (Courtesy Hampton Police via WAVY)

A teacher and teaching assistant at a Virginia autism center are accused of abusing a child with special needs and trying to cover it up.

The York-Poquoson Sheriff's Office arrested Diane "Renee" Smith and Darcie Badami, who both work at the New Horizons Center for Autism and Yorktown. The school is part of Yorktown Middle School.

A staff member at the school heard a child screaming in a classroom on Friday and went to see what was going on. She told deputies she saw a teaching assistant chasing a 13-year-old student with special needs around the room. The woman said she saw the teaching assistant catch the child, then begin sticking the boy several times in the arm with a push pin. The teaching assistant then lifted his shirt and used a cleaning wipe on the wounds, causing even more pain, according to the Sheriffs Office.

The witness said she heard the teaching assistant and a teacher conspire to cover up the abuse by saying the push pin marks were bug bites. The witness went to the school administration who reported it to Child Protective Services.

Deputies began investigating on Monday and have found at least four potential victims of physical abuse, according to WAVY.com.

Smith, 45, faces assault and battery and contributing to the delinquency of a minor charges. Badami, 35, was also charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Badami is listed as a teacher on the school's website

An official at the school says the two suspects are now on leave and that the center was cooperating with authorities.

"The New Horizons Center for Autism responded in a timely and decisive manner to the reported information. We continue to work in full cooperation with The York-Poquoson Sheriff's Office and Child Protective Services in this investigation," said Joseph Johnson with New Horizons Regional Education Centers. "Student safety and treatment is a school priority that we take very seriously. We consider this a very serious matter and will take all appropriate disciplinary and corrective actions."

Sheriffs are still investigating to see if there are any other victims. They ask anyone with information on this crime to call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.

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