2 charged in abuse investigation at New Horizons Center for Autism in Yorktown


by 13News Now


Posted on May 19, 2014 at 12:03 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 21 at 12:00 PM

New Horizons Center for Autism

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5/21 UPDATE:  Deputies are visiting parents who have children at New Horizons Center for Autism.  They are looking for possible victims.

Authorities say it may take several days before the warrants for Diane “Renee” Smith and Darcie Badami are filed in York County Juvenile Domestic Court.  Their first court hearings have not yet been scheduled. 

5/20 UPDATE: Warrants were served on 45-year-old Diane “Renee” Smith for Assault and Battery and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, and 35-year-old Darcie Badami for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. 

Smith turned herself into Hampton police Monday around 8:30 p.m.  She is no longer in custody at the Hampton City Jail. 

Lt. Ivy tells 13News Now it is possible there could be more victims at New Horizons. 

Carlton Hofler says his 12-year-old nephew came home from the school on April 1 with a bruise to his eye.  The family says they were never given an explanation from the school. Ivy says they are investigating Hofler's claims.

Authorities are asking parents to come forward if they think their child suffered abuse at the school. 

Press release from the York-Poquson Sheriff's Office:
In the morning of May 19, 2014, a staff member at the New Horizons Center for Autism in Yorktown heard a child screaming in a classroom. Upon entering the room she witnessed a teacher assistant chasing a 13-year-old special needs student around the room. The witness further reported that upon catching the child she allegedly began sticking the child several times in the arm with a push pin. When she finally stopped sticking the child with the pin she lifted his shirt and took a cleaning wipe to wipe the wounds, which caused further pain to the child. Another teacher, who was also in the room at the time of the assault, was heard by the witness conspiring with the teacher assistant to cover this up by saying the push pin marks were bug bites.

According to the Virginia Department of Education, teachers can keep their jobs unless they are convicted of the crimes.

The school division is required to report whether the teachers are fired due to a criminal conviction, then the teacher loses their license to teach in Virginia.
Teachers aides are not required to have a teaching license.


YORKTOWN -- Police are investigating reports of abuse against four special needs students at New Horizons Center for Autism in Yorktown. 

Lt. Dennis Ivey of the York-Poquoson Sheriff's Office tells 13News Now reporter Karen Hopkins that two staff members are being investigated and arrests warrants could be filed by Monday evening.

Joe Johnson, director of New Horizons, said he received reports last Friday that one student was abused.

Child Protective Services is now investigating and staff members have been placed on leave, he said, although he didn't say what positions the staff members hold.

"One of the things we are concerned about it the safety and well being of our students. We address anything that comes to light," Johnson said.

They're looking into claims that students showed signs of abuse and "people in authority" at the school failed to properly report the problem, Ivy added.

He would not specify if the allegations are against teachers or administrators. 

Lt. Ivey says the investigation is in its early stages, so he can't give details about the nature of the abuse. 

York County School spokeswoman Katherine Goff says the district will notify parents of the situation, but reiterates that New Horizons is a separate school not under York County supervision.