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Teachers under investigation for abuse at Virginia autism center

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YORKTOWN, Va. (WTVR) - Two teachers at New Horizons Center for Autism in Yorktown were charged in connection to the assault of a 13-year-old student.

The incident came to light after a staff member at the center heard screams coming from a classroom.

"Upon entering the room [the staff member] witnessed a teacher assistant chasing a 13-year-old special needs student around the room," York County Sheriff's spokesman Dennis Ivey wrote in an email about the May 16 incident. "The witness further reported that upon catching the child she [the teacher assistant] allegedly began sticking the child several times in the arm with a push pin."

The teacher then lifted the child's shirt and used a cleaning wipe on the wound "which caused further pain to the child," according to investigators.

The witness said another teacher in the room told the assistant teacher to "cover this up" by telling others the push pin marks were actually bug bites.

"The witness immediately reported this incident to the school administration, who reported it to Child Protective Services," Ivey wrote.

Diane “Renee” Smith, 45, of Hampton and Darcie Badami, 35, of Yorktown were charged in this incident.

Smith was charged with Assault and Battery and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. Badami was charged with Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor.

This is not the first incident reported at New Horizons Center for Autism.

A family member told that his 12-year-old nephew's badly bruised eye came as a result from an incident at the center.

Child Protective Services investigators visited the center to make sure staff members knew they were supposed to report unexplained bruising to guardians.

But after they talked with staff members, CPS investigators and the York-Poquoson Sheriff's Office said they believed four children were physically abused at the center.

John, the 12-year-old student, came home from school April 1 with a bruise on his right eye. His uncle, Carlton Hofler said neither he nor his wife were notified.


Hofler said he had to call the school and he was told that staff put ice on the boy's eye but no one had any other information.

Hofler said although John's teacher documented what happened in the classroom each day, there was nothing about the incident in question.

"They come up with about three or four scenarios," Hofler said. "It's like they don't even care."

Hofler said he was not surprised to hear that police believe that other children may have been abused at the center.

"If I thought it was a grown up, I probably would have beat him up myself," he said.

New Horizons Center for Autism is a regional school for children with autism on the Peninsula. It is located in a wing of York Middle School, according to the New Horizon's website.


  • Wildflower

    Really? Is that all you can say…children who are already having enough problems are being brutalized where they’re supposed to be cared for and all you can do is correct spelling…really? That’s the problem with our country these days… We lack outrage over the important things while wasting time on things that are trivial infractions…probably caused by autocorrect.

  • JAMB

    This makes me sick. I have an autistic son and can’t imagine anyone doing anything to harm him. I don’t care if he can be “difficult” or any other terms people chose to use to describe somme of his behavious! No one has a right to harm a child EVER! My heart breaks for children that go through such brutality, especially those who can’t always voice what’s happening to them. Its sad that we live in such a sick and harmful world.

  • Christine Shannon Wares

    I’m a single mom of 2 boys on the spectrum. I would’ve had to be held back from beating their loser unqualified ignorant spineless so called certified bullying weaklings. BUT first, I’d have the smarts to put them in jail. Parents- be the voice and solid foundation for these beautifully gifted children. Love has no boundaries. Xo

    • TheVoice

      Amen Mrs. Wares! I totally agree and I add my voice to the children who have no voice of their own….this is sickening and my son goes (went) there.

  • Nincole

    It is so sad that it is people in the world like this and it breaks my heart to see this because I have an autistic son in the same situation and the facuility that he is in I feel like does not take the time to get involve because they are so use to the money they are receiving for the children! One parent can make a difference, but they can not change the systems law and beliefs of what all Children need. I fear for my son’s life because he has to have 24 supervision, and after all the bad faculities out there I thought I had found a great one!

    • TheVoice

      So sad…together, one community, one family and one child at at time WE can make a difference. We have more to look forward to then endless visits to the specialist. I’ve been told my son will never ride a bike, blow out the candles on his birthday cake, and not to look forward to a high school graduation, and that he my not ever have a family of his own. Stay positive and don’t give up.

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