Former Clarksville kindergarten teacher
arrested on Child Abuse charges
Clarksville, TN – A former kindergarten teacher in Clarksville has been arrested on child abuse charges.
Bonnie Conn, 49, who taught kindergarten at St. Bethlehem Elementary School, is charged with two counts of child abuse.
According to the sheriff’s office, Conn was arrested Wednesday and was being held on $15,000 bond.
Earlier this month, the mother of a student filed a federal lawsuit against the Clarksville-Montgomery County Board of Education and Conn claiming that her autistic son was mistreated by Conn after a video surfaced which showed Conn dragging the boy out of her classroom by the arm on two occasions.
A Montgomery County grand jury returned an indictment this month, charging Conn with two counts of child abuse. According to the indictment, Conn abused a child under the age of 8 “so as to adversely affect the child’s health and welfare” on Jan. 23 and Jan. 27.
The indictment does not identify the child or mother in the criminal case, but the dates correspond with those involving the autistic child.
According to the federal lawsuit, Feltonas Wells is the mother of a 6-year-old student who was placed in Conn’s classroom at the school in the fall of 2016.
The lawsuit alleges that the child’s Constitutional rights were violated among other issues.
The child is diagnosed with severe Autism syndrome and qualified as a student with “developmental delay” based on Tennessee Department of Education guidelines.
Wells first became concerned about the “sad faces” her son was receiving on his daily chart reportedly for poor behavior in class.
On Feb. 2, 2017, Wells went to the school to drop off another child and found that her son was being punished by being forced to lay on a cot isolated from the classroom and facing away from the teacher and other students.
She removed the boy and took him home.
The next day her son begged his mother not to make him go to school because “he didn’t want to be bad anymore,” according to the lawsuit.
A principal called and said he would be assigned to a new teacher so his mother returned him to school.
On Feb. 9, Wells received a phone call from Principal Melisse Williams, who seemed to be crying as she told the mother that she witnessed video footage of her son being pushed by Conn and had reported the abuse to the Department of Children Services, according to the lawsuit.
On Feb. 10, Wells went to the school and was allowed to view a surveillance camera outside Conn’s classroom.
“To Ms. Wells’ shock and surprise, the video revealed Ms. Conn violently dragging (the boy) out of the classroom by one arm and then pushing him with her foot to get him out of the doorway,” the lawsuit said. “She then shut the door causing it to strike (the boy) on his head. Ms. Conn left (the boy) alone in the hallway and returned to her classroom. (The boy) is shown holding his head and crying following the physical assault.”
When Wells asked why her son was put back in Conn’s classroom, she was told that Conn was undergoing anger management counseling and the number of students had been reduced so she would not become overwhelmed, the lawsuit said.
Wells removed the boy from the school and enrolled him in another local school.
According to Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools Spokeswoman Elise Shelton, Conn was hired in 2005, placed on alternative work site on Feb. 10 and resigned Feb. 16.
“Stranger-Danger” Warnings Not Effective at Keeping Kids Safer
By Nancy A. McBride, National Safety Director National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® www.missingkids.com
“Stranger danger” — the phrase is so pervasive in our culture it has become part of the lexicon. The media and other professionals often use this phrase as a slogan to try to educate children about how to avoid dangerous situations and individuals. When well-intentioned professionals and parents/guardians use the phrase “stranger danger” it may mistakenly convey only strangers harm children. The message of “never talk to strangers” does not fully educate children about how to stay safer.
What does “stranger danger” really mean, and do children benefit from an outdated and misleading message?
Here’s what we have learned about the “stranger-danger” concept.
Children don’t get it
Adults don’t practice it
Children need to know how to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations
Adults need to know risks to children are greater from someone they know
This is why the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC) does not support the “strangerdanger” message. The majority of cases have shown most children are not taken by a stranger, but rather are abducted by someone they know.
When questioned, children will often describe a “stranger” as someone who is “ugly or mean.” They do not perceive attractive or friendly people as “strangers.” If someone talks to a child or is even around a child more than once, that person may lose his or her “stranger” status to the child. The child may then think he or she
“knows” that person. Children also want to be helpful, thrive on adult approval, and respond to adult authority.
So if someone with ill intent asks a child to perform a task or tells a child something has happened to a loved one, there is a good chance the child may be tricked into going with that person.
The “stranger-danger” message becomes even more confusing for children because they may not be able to tell by looking at someone whether that individual is “good” or “bad.” Wouldn’t it be great if we could simply recognize and point out the “bad” people to our children? Adults often break the rule of “don’t talk to strangers”
in a number of different situations. Adults, however, have the benefit of experience, judgment, and decision making skills. Children do not. And even adults, at times, may misperceive potential dangers. So if we are not always able to identify “bad” people, we certainly cannot expect our children to be able to do so.
Children need to be empowered with positive messages and safety skills that will not only build their self-esteem and self-confidence but also help keep them safer. Children need to learn how to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations. If they become involved in a dangerous situation, children need to learn
effective steps they can take to remove themselves from the situation. Children do not need to be told the world is a scary place. They see it through a variety of media, hear it from adults, or may even personally experience violence. Children need to know their parents, guardians, or other trusted adults — people whom the parents/guardians have come to rely on and with whom they and their children feel comfortable — are there for them if they are in trouble. Children also need to know the majority of adults in their lives are good people.
When we tell children to “never talk to strangers,” we have effectively eliminated a key source of help for them. If they are lost they may be surrounded by many rescuers who could help them. If children perceive these people as “strangers,” they may not speak or reach out to them. There have been cases in which a child’s rescue was delayed because the lost child was afraid to call out to the “strangers” when rescuers were nearby. Parents and guardians cannot be with their children every second of the day. We need to give our children “safety nets,” the plans and people you’ve put in place to contact so your children know there is always someone available to help them. These individuals may include uniformed law-enforcement or security officers and store/business personnel wearing nametags.
The safety messages need to be tailored to specific circumstances, such as being lost outside. Parents and guardians should teach children to:
Stay put and not wander away from where they first became lost. Staying where they are increases children’s chances of being found unless that place becomes too dangerous because of severe weather or another potentially threatening situation. In that case children need to go to the nearest safe spot and wait for rescuers.
Make noise either by yelling, blowing a whistle, or attracting attention in some other way. This may help bring someone to their rescue.
Parents and guardians should make child safety part of a child’s everyday life in a reassuring way by practicing these skills. Whether it is checking first with a trusted adult, taking a friend, or avoiding and getting out of potentially dangerous situations, there are easy “what-if” scenarios you may practice with your children to make sure they understand and “get it.” Make outings to a mall or the park a “teachable moment” to make sure your children understand the safety messages and are able to use them in real-life situations.
Children will begin to learn what to do if they become lost or are in danger by practicing these “what-if” scenarios with you on a regular basis. You can also use these opportunities to reassure your children you are there for them, and remind them there are other people who also are able to help them.
NCMEC believes it is time for everyone to retire use of the “stranger-danger” message. By realizing child safety
is much more than a slogan, we can then arm our children with relevant, age-appropriate messages to help empower and protect them from potentially dangerous situations. Having strong parental, guardian, and caregiver supervision and attention is vital to keeping our children safer.
For more information about child-safety topics, visit our website at www.missingkids.com or contact us at 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678).
This project was supported by Grant No. 2011-MC-CX-K001 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® and 1-800-THE-LOST® are registered trademarks of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. NCMEC Order PDF-10A.
NOTE: This is not the property of NOT IN MY WORLD!!!!, we are a self-supporting information center for parents, families, and the public, to help all children, who are the future of our world; by raising awareness to Child Abuse, and it’s lifelong detrimental effects.
We want to say THANK YOU to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and the U.S. Department of Justice for allowing us the use of so many resources to properly educate our staff, and also to pass along this valuable information and resources to Parents, Family, and the public.
Tucson woman faces additional Child
Sex Abuse charges in California
A Tucson woman arrested in May on child sex abuse charges out of California is facing additional charges in connection with the crime.
Emily Joy Stephens, 30, was previously facing six felony child-abuse charges involving three children under the age of 10 and three children under the age of 14 in Santa Cruz County Superior Court.
On August 4, she was charged with two additional counts of oral copulation or penetration on a child under 10, according to Santa Cruz County Superior Court records.
Stephens is being held without bond in Pima County jail awaiting extradition to California.
Also accused in the case is California neurosurgeon James Kohut, 57, who is facing multiple counts of sexually abusing children younger than 14.
On May 11, a police detective from Watsonville, California contacted the Pima County Sheriff’s Department regarding a video that showed Stephens and another woman having sex with three juveniles, according to Arizona Daily Star archives.
The other woman, Rashel Brandon, is a 42-year-old nurse who worked with Kohut in a Santa Cruz hospital. She’s also facing multiple charges of child sexual abuse in connection with the case, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
When deputies arrested Stephens, she was living with her five children, all whom are under the age of 13, according to sheriff’s department records.
Stephens, who is pregnant with Kohut’s child, met Kohut eight years ago on a website for single parents, according to Star archives.
Fortune said investigators were still interviewing the parents to determine exactly what happened. The baby had not been in the church parking lot for hours; Fortune said the car had been elsewhere before the father drove to the church.
She said she didn’t know where the car had been or why it had ended up at the church.
“Everyone is cooperative,” Fortune said. “It’s the death of a child. It’s a tragedy.”
No arrests had been made as of Saturday night, Fortune said.
Family members began gathering at the church to support the parents shortly after it happened.
“It’s shocking, devastating, just sad,” said Zettica Mitchell, who said she was a cousin of the baby’s father. “You feel like it’s something that could happen to anybody.”
She said she had come to the church to support the family, and mentioned hearing about the other baby that had died similarly Friday.
Second death in two days
This death came just 24 hours after 7-month-old Zane Endress died after being left in a car in northeast Phoenix for about four hours, according to Phoenix police.
The boy was in the care of his grandparents at the time, police reported.
These two are the first cases of a child dying in a hot car in Maricopa County this year. There was at least one death last year.
Fortune reminded parents to take time to check their backseats for their children.
“We hear that parents are saying they forgot their babies in their vehicles,” she said. “Take some time, again, to look inside your vehicle … to just avoid these tragedies.”
In October, 5-month-old Israel Sebastian Avila died after being left unattended in a car for about four hours.
The baby’s aunt and her boyfriend had been babysitting the child, according to Peoria police officials. They dropped the baby’s mother off at work and then returned home, reporting that they forgot the baby was in the car until they got back in the car to pick the mother up from work.