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School district addresses child abuse claims in special news conference

 School district addresses child abuse claims in special news conferenc

Allegations of an Okaloosa County special needs teacher abusing a nonverbal child with autism has rocked the county.

On Monday, the school board will hold its regular meeting less than an hour after the superintendent holds a press conference.

The father of the child who was allegedly abused believes the school district tried to cover up signs of abuse.

Others in the community said it's time for more oversight.

The saga began in 2015 at Kenwood Elementary School, when Eddie Perillo's nonverbal autistic son moved into the classroom of Marlynn Stillions.

Eddie's son spent more than a year in the teacher's classroom. At the same time, Eddie noticed changes to his son's behavior.

"He became aggressive and he had aggressive behavior and just was acting a little different," Perillo said.

It took until May of 2017 when Perillo was able to obtain a copy of a school district investigation, which accused Stillions of abusing the children in her care, for Perillo to learn about the alleged abuse.

He took the case to the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office and believes it goes all the way to the superintendent's office.

"I believe she knew about it. To be honest with you, that's my thoughts on everything. and if she didn't, which is very hard to believe, she definitely should've been aware of it and taken action," Perillo said.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office investigated the claims and made three arrests, including the teacher, the principal of Kenwood Elementary and the school district's investigator.

Other members of the autism community, like Angela Hager in Okaloosa County, said it's a crossroad for the district.

Her autistic son spent almost two decades in Okaloosa County schools.

"I was shocked and very disturbed that not only those events happening, that there were so many witnesses that had seen these things happen and did not come forward until there was an employee intervention being conducted," Hager said.

She's on the agenda to speak at Monday night's meeting.

"I think that there are things that can be done to fix this. That's what I want to see. It's not that I've lost all faith, it's just that there are deficiencies that need to be addressed," Hager said.


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