Nicely Elementary School students were wrapped in mats, sprayed with soap by employees, police say

GREENSBURG — Police have released new details about the alleged incident of child abuse that resulted in charges being filed against two Greensburg Salem School District employees.

During a press conference, police said the teacher, Brooke Stanko, and her assistant, Teri Kepchia were abusing three special needs students in their classroom at Nicely Elementary School.

Charges were filed against Stanko and Kepchia on Thursday.

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The children were ages six, seven and eight.

Authorities say one child was sprayed in the face and mouth with lemon juice for spitting. That escalated to the teacher using an unknown soap solution on the child.

The two are also accused of rolling students up in room divider sound mats to restrict and restrain them.

A teacher from a neighboring district called a ChildLine as a mandatory report of the allegations of abuse which prompted an investigation in November.

The Superintendent of Greensburg Salem School District also spoke at the press conference and emphasized how seriously the allegations are being taken.

“It is nothing we expect from any of our staff members. When we find out that the love and genuine concern of any of our kids has been violated we take it very seriously,” Superintendent Kenneth Bissell said.

Detective Justin Scalzo said the teachers were trained to use proper techniques if children were misbehaving but did their own methods that the school did not approve, and which authorities call abusive.

The mother of the 8-year-old who was allegedly abused told Channel 11 her family has retained a lawyer. She said she knew there was a problem and talked to the teacher repeatedly, fearing the child was being abused in the school van. She said her son was afraid to leave and had been throwing up, which she now believes was from the soap.

Detective Scalzo said a teacher from a neighboring district called Child Line, alerting authorities to the alleged abuse. “This other teacher from a different school heard about the incident and did the right thing and filed the ChildLine. That’s what brought this to everyone’s attention.”

Both teachers were arrested and placed on leave. Bissell said they will not be returning.

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