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Parents demand change after accusations that teacher abused child

Parents demand change after accusations that teacher abused child

Allegations against a local special needs teacher accusing her of assaulting a nonverbal special needs student have outraged parents in Okaloosa County.

On Monday, the school board's second meeting since the arrests of three district employees, parents plan to ask for more accountability in the classrooms.

Okaloosa County Sheriff's deputies arrested Marlynn Stillions and charged her with four counts of child abuse in September.

Now some parents want cameras in special needs classrooms to prevent this from ever happening again, but it may not be an easy task.

Two weeks ago, Stephanie McCowan watched as the school district discussed the abuse allegations for the first time.

She grew up in Okaloosa County schools and has an 8-year-old with autism who attends the Silver Sands special needs school in Fort Walton Beach.

"They dropped the ball, they let this happen. It takes just one person to let the ball drop," McCowan said about the abuse.

Stephanie will speak at Monday's meeting.

She's demanding the school district put security cameras in every special needs education room.

"They are not trustworthy," she said of the district. "I want something that goes beyond that, that I can log into and look at my children to know with my eyes that they are safe."

But there could be legal issues regarding a live feed from a public school.

Gene Gibson sells and installs video security systems and said cost is not an issue.

Gibson said the systems could be installed "reasonably between $3,000 to $10,000, that's just a ballpark."

He said privacy concerns could nix a live feed, but they could be tape recorded, a similar method the district uses on its buses.

However, like the bus system, it would have viewing restrictions for the public.

Whatever the restrictions, Stephanie just wants something done.

"We need to be heard, we have to be our children's advocate," she said.

The school board did mention on its agenda it will discuss employee suspensions and personnel recommendations at Monday's meeting.

The school board suspended two current school district employees, Arden Farley and Marlynn Stillions, without pay pending their trials.

A third person arrested in the case, former Kenwood Elementary School Principal Angelyn Vaughan, was listed on the arrest report as the principal of the Cinco Bayou Christian School.

No other arrests have been made by the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.

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