Duct tape over the mouth of one child. Another with her head held back, being forced to swallow food. A third disciplined with a belt. Yet another struck by a bus driver. Upset 4-year-olds made to sit on the floor in a dark, locked bathroom.
These were the accusations launched this week against a Summerville teacher, a Goose Creek day care worker and a Dorchester District 2 bus driver in three separate incidents.
The Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a report by a teacher’s assistant at Summerville Montessori School of the Arts that a teacher there abused students.
The private school is for children from age 2 to second grade, according to the school’s website. Located on a single-lane, private dirt road off Orangeburg Road, the house-turned-school has 50 students, director and owner Elizabeth Cain said.
According to an incident report released Wednesday, 4-year-olds who were upset were made to sit on the floor in a locked bathroom in the dark. Also, the teacher force-fed a student by holding her head back and making her swallow.
The report said the teacher put duct tape over a 4-year-old boy’s mouth more than once. And a parent has told police that the teacher hit her 3-year-old daughter.
The accusations are under investigation and the teacher has not been arrested, Dorchester County sheriff’s Capt. James Nettles said. He said he expects the staff at the Dorchester County Children’s Center to conduct an interview with a young student, and then investigators will decide if charges are warranted.
Cain said the teacher is on unpaid leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
A parent of a former student who asked not to be identified said parents had been notified of the accusations and that they are trying to protect their children from hearing about them.
Cain said she has been asked not to comment on the case.
“We are fully cooperating on this matter,” she said. “We are sad that our families are experiencing this and seek to understand all facts involved. Please know the safety and well-being of the children is our top priority at all times.”
Day care incident
In Goose Creek, a 38-year-old woman was charged with third-degree assault and battery, authorities said.
A mother contacted the Goose Creek Police Department after her 6-year-old son said Elona Colette Crawford beat him on his bottom with a belt at Just For Kids Daycare, 107 St. James Ave., according to a police report.
The boy’s mother questioned Crawford about the incident, but Crawford denied the accusations, the report stated. She later told the mother that the boy may have been confused after watching her punish a boy who “was like a child to her” by having him open his hands while she “pops them three times.”
Crawford, of Ceaton Court, turned herself over to authorities Wednesday for a scheduled bond hearing, and was released on a $1,092.50 personal recognizance bond, Capt. John Grainger said.
In Dorchester District 2, a bus driver was arrested Wednesday after a Knightsville Elementary School parent complained that the driver hit a child Feb. 7.
Fred Rocquemore, 59, of Jupiter Lane in Summerville, was charged with cruelty to children by the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office.
A bus video shows the driver getting up from his seat, walking up to a student and striking him with his hand, according to the report.
Rocquemore was booked into the county jail.
An employee of Durham School Services said he was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Christina Elmore and Dave Munday contributed to this story.