A Violet Elementary School special education teacher and several support staff members have been placed on paid administrative leave or resigned over allegations of physical abuse of a student.

A Violet Elementary School special education teacher and several support staff members have been placed on paid administrative leave or resigned over allegations of physical abuse of a student.

The allegations stem from a Sept. 23 incident in which a student's mother said an educational aide used her foot to force a 9-year-old lying on the floor to turn from her back to her stomach.

The incident, however, was not reported to district officials until a week later, district human resources director Larry Mullins said.

That prompted an internal investigation that spread to five employees and a call to Fairfield County's child protective services, Mullins said.

Melissa Pfaltzgraf, the assistant involved in the incident, resigned Oct. 13 and the student has been moved to another school. The classroom teacher and another educational assistant remain on paid administrative leave, Mullins said.

On Monday, the Pickerington Board of Education accepted the resignations of physical therapist Rae Ann Brown and an occupational therapist Heidi Cornhill, both of whom were in the classroom at the time of the incident. Mullins said the resignations came as the district was preparing to terminate the women's contracts.

"It's two separate issues," Mullins said. "One is the incident of abuse itself. That was taken care of once we knew about it. The second issue is the failure to report and tell anybody what had happened for a week."

State law identifies school employees as "mandatory reporters" and requires them to notify child protective services as soon as an incident is witnessed or abuse is suspected.

Mullins said the district has completed its investigation into the incident. But, he said, attorneys for the district and those representing the teacher and assistant who remain on leave have not reached a resolution.

Any disciplinary action taken against the women, he said, has to be approved by the board and the district will not release their names until that occurs.

Rich Bowlen, Fairfield County's director of child protective services, said his agency did receive a call regarding the incident in Pickerington. But, Bowlen said, he cannot comment on whether or not an investigation is being conducted.

In general, he said, the agency has four hours from the time it receives a complaint to decide if an investigation is warranted.

"If we receive a call that there has been a child who has received an injury that is non-accidental or committed by an adult with intent to harm that child, it's an automatic investigation," he said.

Mullins said all new district employees receive training about mandatory reporting guidelines before the start of the school year. In addition, he said, the district is required to provide teachers four hours of ongoing training on the subject.

To bolster those efforts, Mullins said he has scheduled mandatory meetings in each of the district's buildings for every school employee to review the guidelines again.

"This is something I would have done anyway," Mullins said. "I've done it at every district I've been with. I personally go around and do it to make sure there is a clear understanding of the obligations of the reporting law."

In addition, starting this year, Pickerington teachers are being required to complete an online course on Ohio's mandatory reporting laws. Mullins said that is something he initiated when he first joined the district in August.

"We want to make sure that everyone does clearly understand their obligations under the reporting statute," he said. "It's not just to be in legal compliance, but for the benefit of children."