Seminole teacher accused of putting autistic boy in dark room to calm tantrums

Special needs teacher at Highland Elementary placed on leave during investigation

Local 6 News at 7:00p
Local 6 News at 7:00p

WINTER SPRINGS, Fla. – A special needs teacher has been pulled from the classroom after she was accused of putting an autistic student in a "pitch black" room as a way to calm his tantrums.

Winter Springs police investigated claims made by a teacher's aide at Highlands Elementary School.

According to a police report, she told investigators Rosalind Schoewetter would lock students in her special needs Pre-Kindergarten class in a dark closet, ignoring their cries.

The investigation focused on one student who reportedly had a hard time calming down for nap time.

The teacher's aide told investigators Schoenwetter took the child into her office and shut the lights, at which time the child began to cry because he's afraid of the dark.

Police say they questioned Schoenwetter about the incident, and she told them she had tried the technique on another student and had success in calming the student.
She said she tried it with this other child, and it didn't work.

She also says he never told her he was afraid of the dark.

According to the police report, Schoenwetter told investigators she no longer used the darkened room as a technique.

Police investigators determined she posed no danger to her students, however the Seminole County unit of Child Protective Services is investigating the claims further.

Michael Lawrence, a spokesman for Seminole County Public Schools, says a special needs teacher at Highland Elementary School was placed on leave as the investigation moved forward, but would not officially name Schoenwetter.

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