Jacksonville, FL - A Neptune Beach principal is charged with child abuse after an 11-year-old with Downs Syndrome sustains cuts and bruises.
WOKV obtained the police report for 51-year-old Ronda Steinke-McDonald, who heads the New Leaf School for Change. According to the school’s website, they deal with students grades 1-12 who are “the overwhelmed, the underlooked, and the underachieving.” They deal largely with students who have learning disabilities or “emotional difficulties”.
Neptune Beach Lieutenant Adam Militello says the 11-year-old became a disruption in the school on September 12th.
“Being defiant in the classroom, just basically laying on the floor,” he says.
Their investigation found that Steinke-McDonald and a teacher tried to persuade the student to go back to his seat. When he refused, they tried to pick him up off the floor but that “proved too difficult”, according to the police report. At that time, Steinke-McDonald tells police she decided to slowly drag him out of the room.
“I never for the impression, speaking with her or witnesses, that it was an aggravated “I’m mad” kind of dragging the child,” Militello says.
The child was dragged roughly 30 feet over carpet, concrete and two door thresholds. Steinke-McDonald tells police the entire time she continued to encourage the child to stand up.
According to the police report, the student suffered “an abrasion to his abdomen and what appeared to be a significant scrape and/or rug style burn on his inner right elbow.” He was evaluated by DCF and his own physician.
On October 10th the arrest warrant for child abuse was issued, and Steinke-McDonald turned herself in to police yesterday. Militello says she has fully cooperated with the investigation. Duval County Jail records show she was released last night and her next court date has not yet been set.
WOKV has reached out to the New Leaf School for Change to determine whether Steinke-McDonald’s actions followed their protocol and whether her employment is under review.