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EXCLUSIVE: Okaloosa's superintendent requests legal council for abuse case

School superintendent speaks out on abuse accusations of special needs child

A firestorm has erupted in Okaloosa County over an allegation a teacher physically abused a six-year-old with autism and other employees of the school district failed to report it.

Now, the superintendent is speaking out about the situation exclusively to Channel 3 News.

Okaloosa County's superintendent of schools said the recent child abuse accusations of a special needs student at Kenwood Elementary have affected her to her core.

"It is very hurtful to me because I do have a special needs grandson, and anyone who knows me knows I would never ever tolerate anything like this," Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson said.

The alleged abuse includes kneeing a child, then six years old, in the chin four times, per an Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office arrest affidavit.

The alleged abuse was discovered more than a year after the fact by a parent who then took the case to authorities.

Three people - the teacher, the principal and an Okaloosa County abuse investigator have been arrested for the alleged abuse or failing to report it to the proper authorities.

It's still an open investigation. Channel 3's Christopher Saul asked Superintendent Jackson how these allegations made it more than a year before an arrest was made.

"I'm really not at liberty to say anything much except...I will say process and how you handle things is very important and we have re-tooled our processes and we have changed them. And that's all I can say about that. Sorry," Jackson said.

Newly developing before Monday's school board meeting - the board will discuss the superintendent's request for separate legal counsel for the office of superintendent.

Some parents have reservations about paying for the additional lawyer the superintendent says she needs, including the parent who started a petition for her removal.

Considering the accusations Jackson has revised the abuse reporting policy.

Now Jackson, head of the HR department, and parties deemed relevant to an accusation must sign off on a report about the abuse.

This policy was in place during the 80s and 90s, but was changed in 2000, per the superintendent's office.

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