Two arrested for alleged abuse at New Horizons Center for Autism

Posted at 9:42 AM, May 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-20 17:27:07-04

York County, Va. - Two teacher assistants at the New Horizons Center for Autism in York County have been arrested after allegedly abusing a student and conspiring to cover it up.

45-year-old Diane 'Renee' Smith of Hampton and 35-year-old Darcie Badami of Yorktown face charges following an investigation at the center, whch is located in a wing of York Middle School.

Related: Autism center in York County facing child abuse allegations

A staff member reported the alleged abuse to school administrators on May 16th. The staff member said that she heard a child screaming and entered a classroom to find one of the teacher assistants chasing a 13 year old special needs student around the room, according to the York-Poquoson Sheriff's Office.

The staff member reported that after catching the child the woman allegedly began sticking the boy several times in the arm with a push pin. When she finally stopped sticking the boy she lifted his shirt and applied a cleaning wipe to the wounds, causing further pain to the child.

Another teacher assistant was heard by the staff member conspiring with the teacher assistant to cover the incident up by saying the push pin marks were bug bites.

The school administration immediately notified the Sheriff's Office, which began an investigation on May 19th and later arrested Smith and Badami.

Badami turned herself in to Investigators. She was charged with Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor and was released on permitted warrants. No mugshot was provided.

smith, diane

Diane Smith

Smith turned herself into the Hampton Police Division. She was charged with Assault and Battery and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. She is no longer in custody of the Hampton City Jail.

The investigation is ongoing to make sure that there are no other victims.

Child Protective Services tells NewsChannel 3 they believe four children have been physically abused at the school and that they're investigating three employees.

The school system says those employees have been placed on administrative leave.

The school issued the following response to the allegations:

The New Horizons Center for Autism (CFA) responded in a timely and decisive manner to information reported at its York Middle School program on Friday 5/16/14.  We continue work in full cooperation with The York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office and Child Protective Services in this investigation.   Student safety and treatment is a priority, we consider this a very serious matter and will take all appropriate disciplinary and corrective actions. It would be inappropriate for me to discuss any further details of this ongoing investigation.   We remain proactive and vigilant when it comes to the safety of our students and staff.

Anyone with information on this crime is asked to call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.