BROOKSVILLE — A teacher at Eastside Elementary has been pulled from the classroom as officials investigate allegations that she pinched the cheeks of an autistic student to get the student's attention, possibly on more than one occasion.
Lisa Studer, 49, is accused of grabbing the boy's cheeks and pulling him toward her, according to a Sheriff's Office report that quotes a state Department of Children and Families abuse report, which was not immediately available. "Red marks were left on both sides of (the student's) face."
The Sheriff's Office found that criminal allegations of abuse were unfounded. But the school district is still investigating.
An unidentified adult female witness reported the incident to school officials.
The woman said she witnessed Studer "place her thumb on one cheek and her forefinger on the other cheek and squeeze (the student's) face," the deputy's report said. "She redirected towards her own face. It is believed that this was in an attempt to get attention due to his autism."
The incident occurred in December, the sheriff's report said, and "possibly occurred more then once."
The investigating deputy spoke to the student, who was born in 2004, and his mother. The mother was unaware of the allegations and said the boy hasn't shown any evidence of abuse. The boy "could not advise of any incidents in which the teacher has laid hands on him," according to the sheriff's report.
Studer said she could not recall grabbing the student.
"She also advised that she does not put her hands on the children in any way for discipline reasons," the deputy wrote.
A DCF official could not immediately confirm that the agency is still investigating. Studer is working in the school's front office until the district's inquiry is completed, said Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association.