Police in Blackstone and Millville have finished their investigation into allegations that special needs children were physically abused by a teacher and an aide employed by the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District.
The findings in the case have been turned over to the Worcester County District Attorney's Office, which is to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges, said Tim Connolly, spokesman for District Attorney Joseph Early.
“No decision has been made at this point,” Connolly said Thursday.
Connolly said it would be up to Early and an assistant district attorney in charge of the case to determine whether criminal charges will be returned against any individual. He said it's unclear how long that might take.
School officials and the police have declined to identify the alleged perpetrators, but sources close to the investigation have said they are Michele F. Sherwin, a special needs teacher who lives in Franklin, and Tanya Morin of Millville, an aide employed in Sherwin's class.
Both have been placed on administrative leave by BMR Supt. Kimberly Shaver-Hood pending the resolution of the investigation, sources say.
A parent who spoke on condition of anonymity said her child and three others are considered possible victims in the case. All are between seven and 10 years old and suffer from a variety of developmental disabilities. At least three of the children are unable to speak. The four children make up Sherwin's entire special needs class and have been with her for several years.
Two parents who spoke to The Call say the allegations are that their children were either stricken with excessive force or improperly restrained. The allegations apparently surfaced after Sherwin's class was relocated from Millville Elementary School to the JFK/Maloney Complex in Blackstone this year, when new aides joined Sherwin and Morin in supervising the classroom.
Blackstone police have declined to return telephone calls about the probe. While he refused to name names or provide specifics about the allegations, Millville Police Chief Ronald Landry said the mere fact that police have forwarded their findings to the district attorney's office does not necessarily mean they have determined the existence of probable cause that a crime has been committed.
“Our mission is to find the truth,” said Landry. “I think in a case like this it's the prudent thing to do regardless of our findings. We go to the distict attorney's office for guidance because you want the right answer.”
Allegations of abuse and neglect normally begin with a complaint to a police department, prompting a referral to the state Department for Children and Families. Landry said DCF typically performs a “mini-investigation” to determine whether further inquiry by the police is justified.
Parents say the allegations involving Sherwin and Morin have already been reviewed by a DCF child protective investigator based in Northbridge, Mass., whom they identified as Michael Thurston. He has declined to return phone calls about the case.