District: Principal suspended for not reporting alleged abuse of special needs students

A Coweta County elementary school principal was suspended for two days without pay earlier this month as part of an investigation into the alleged mistreatment of special needs students.

Christi Hildebrand, the principal at Elm Street Elementary, failed to report the allegations, leading to her suspension, Coweta County School System spokesman Dean Jackson told AJC.com. The investigation has led to two school employees being placed on paid administrative leave.

Hildebrand had previously been removed from the school and reassigned to the central office for five days for “additional training on mandated reporting,” Jackson added. She’s since returned to the school.

One of the school employees at the center of the investigation, paraprofessional Nicole Marshall, told Channel 2 Action News on Thursday that she’s innocent. She added that she witnessed the other employee place her hands on the special needs children and reported it, dragging her into the incident.

“Discouraged. I feel defeated,” she said. “It’s a very sad situation and I’m just really shocked.”

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Marshall claims the other employee put her hands around a student’s neck, moving her back and forth “aggressively,” Channel 2 reported. The other employee’s name has not been released since neither school employee has been charged or fired. The news station was unable to reach that employee for a comment.

Newnan police and the school system are both investigating the incident, which was brought to the district’s attention Dec. 18, AJC.com previously reported. In a letter to parents by Superintendent Steve Barker, he said the “allegations were made by two employees against one another.”

RELATED: Alleged 'mistreatment' of special needs students under investigation in Coweta

Investigators are also working to determine if Hildebrand committed a mandated reporter violation, which could lead to misdemeanor charges, Jackson said. Georgia law requires that mandated reporters, which includes all school district personnel, to report cases of child abuse within 24 hours.

Hildebrand declined to comment to Channel 2 about the incident.

“All findings of the Newnan Police Department will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review prior to the closing of the investigations into these matters,” Barker said.

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