Grand Jury clears Okaloosa County School District in abuse case

Photo: Angelyn Vaughn, former principal of Kenwood Elementary (left), Arden Farley, Equity Specialist who worked with the Okaloosa County School District (right), Marlynn Stillios, Exceptional Student Education teacher at Kenwood Elementary School (middle)

Photo source: Okaloosa County Jail

An Okaloosa County Grand Jury has decided to clear the Okaloosa County School District (OCSD) for multiple allegations of child abuse. However, they recommended that the State Attorney's Office continue to investigate Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson to determine if sufficient evidence exists for the filing of criminal charges.

Numerous allegations and complaints against Kenwood Elementary School teacher Marlynn Stillions prompted the Grand Jury's investigation, according to the report. The complaints alleged that she kicked, tripped, grabbed, withheld food from and sprayed students with a vinegar solution. The person who received the bulk of the abuse was Noah Perillo, a child with autism, according to the Grand Jury. Because of this, they were tasked with reviewing the operations, policies and procedures of the OCSD, they said.

The report states that the Grand Jury returned a no true bill because they found the arrests of four people was sufficient. Those arrests include Stillions, Arden Farley, an Equity Specialist who worked with OCSD, former Kenwood Elementary principal Angelyn Vaughn and the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Stacie Smith.

The Grand Jury found that the internal investigation wasn't properly handled by Stillions, Farley, Vaughn or Smith.

"At no time during the investigation process or review were the allegations of abuse against Ms. Stillions ever reported to the Department of Children and Families. Florida Law requires that any person who knows or who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused must report such knowledge or suspicion to the Department," the report reads.

When the child's father learned there was a report about the alleged abuse, the school district initially told him the report didn't exist, the report states. He sparked the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office and the State Attorney's Offce investigation after he received a redacted report and presented it to the authorities, according to the report.

Moving forward, they recommend employee training, policy changes, changes to the procedures related to equity investigations and further investigation into OCSD Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson.

The Grand Jury wrote that they are most concerned by Superintendent Jackson's behavior. They expressed disappointment that, despite multiple requests, she chose not to appear before the Grand Jury.

"As the elected Superintendent of Schools, Ms. Jackson is responsible for the safety and well-being of 30,000 students. We find that she has failed to fulfill that obligation. We further find that she has not satisfied her obligations as an elected official," the Grand Jury wrote.

State Attorney Bill Eddins released the no true bill and report of the decision, which was made on February 20th, to the media Thursday. We have embedded the full report for you to view below.

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