Louisiana teacher accused of abusing autistic students

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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - A Louisiana special education teacher has been arrested and accused of using corporal punishment on two autistic students. Melissa Lacomb is facing two counts of felony cruelty to juveniles.

Courtesy: OPSO

Court documents state Lacomb was involved in two separate incidents at Madison James Foster Elementary School on October 3rd.

First, an employee told the school's principal she saw Lacomb hit a four-year-old autistic student with a ruler on the right thigh. During the second, the same employee told the principal Lacomb placed a different four-year-old autistic student in a bathroom, closed the door and left the child there for about 30 minutes. The report says the child could be heard screaming and crying during that time period.

KNOE reached out to Monroe City School Superintendent Dr. Brent Vidrine, who said in a statement, "On any report of potential abuse, we contact the Monroe Police Dept. immediately to have the police conduct the investigation. The teacher has been placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation."

KNOE also dug through the city's corporal punishment policy. According to the city's handbook, teachers do have the right to use corporal punishment on students.

But there are some guidelines.

The only form of corporal punishment they can use is a paddle to the child's buttocks. The handbook also says corporal punishment must be used as a last resort and in the presence of another school employee.

That said, students with what the handbook calls "exceptionalities" are exempt from corporal punishment. that designation includes students who are autistic.

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