A Hendersonville elementary school special needs teacher has been charged with child abuse following an incident last week with a five-year-old student who has autism.
April Chandler, a teacher in a comprehensive development class at George Whitten Elementary School, was suspended without pay on Nov. 15 after Hendersonville police initiated a child abuse investigation at the school on the same day.
During their investigation, police interviewed two witnesses who said they saw Chandler, 45, exhibit inappropriate behavior toward the student, according to a police affidavit filed in Sumner County General Sessions Court.
After watching the student, who is non-verbal, pull paper off of a bulletin board, one witness said she heard Chandler say, “Don’t worry about that, I’m going to get him,” before grabbing the boy’s arm in a “forceful angry manner.”
The witness said she saw red marks and scratches on the victim’s arm and took photographs of what she observed.
When asked if she had ever seen similar situations between the teacher and the boy, the witness said that at some point last month Chandler was reading a story to children when the boy began to sit on her lap. The teacher nudged the boy off her and he fell down, according to the witness.
Another witness told police that she and Chandler were changing the boy, who is not yet potty-trained, last month. Chandler was changing the boy in a rough manner and he began to cry, the witness stated. Chandler then made a comment that the witness thought was inappropriate to the boy, and she filed a complaint against the teacher with the school system’s human resources department.
According to Sumner County Schools Spokesperson Jeremy Johnson, Chandler was disciplined by the school system for making an inappropriate comment to a student in October.
The teacher, who was hired by Sumner County Schools in August, has previously taught in Rutherford County and Metro Nashville Public Schools, Johnson said.
Chandler was arrested and charged with one count of child abuse on Nov. 18. She was released from the Sumner County Jail on a $5,000 bond on the same day, and is scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on Dec. 11.
The teacher will remain suspended without pay pending the outcome of her court case, according to Johnson.