Parents file complaints against Freeport teacher’s aide and SRO

AGENCIES ARE INVESTIGATING ALLEGED ABUSE from a Freeport Teacher’s aide and SRO towards student in the ESE program.

By ALICIA LEONARD
Those that need protecting the most are often sadly the ones that lack a voice to cry for
help. Such is the situation that might be unfolding over alleged abuse of special needs students
at Freeport High School.
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and Walton County Sheriff’s
Office (WCSO) are investigating separate complaints filed against special needs teacher’s aide
Kelly Woodworth as well as the school’s Student Resource Officer (SRO).
Woodworth has been reported to have been placed on leave and not on campus during
the investigation.
Published sources state a complaint was filed with the WCSO by April and John
Dunaway. They allege their daughter was sitting in a desk Woodworth flipped over.
Corey Dobridnia, Public Information Officer for the WCSO, responded with the
following information on the complaints:
“At this point in time, we can confirm that on Thursday a complaint was made regarding
a Teacher’s Aide. Monday, we received a separate complaint regarding a different incident
involving our Freeport School Resource Deputy.
“Currently, our Criminal Investigations Bureau is investigating the child abuse allegation
and if there was a report to DCF. The School Resource Deputy is still on duty at the school. The
investigation is still in the very early stages and we take all allegations of child abuse very
seriously.”
Any other verified information on the complaints is being withheld as part of an ongoing
investigation.
The alleged abuse supposedly occurred in October 2017 and was first brought to the
attention of the parents in a meeting with Terrica Carlock, a special education teacher, last
week. Carlock has publicly stated she was dismissed from employment last week, and was
unable to tell parents about incidents while working for the district.
After her dismissal, she states she had made reports to DCF while still employed, but
was not given a reason for being let go by the district.
Those alleged complaints made to DCF should have triggered an investigation, but
there is no mention of what happened after the alleged reporting by Carlock.
She stated she believed there had been more incidents in the past where students had
been verbally and physically abused by the accused and others.
Woodworth’s certification to be working with students with special needs has been
called into question and administration after investigation thinks she did indeed lack special
(ESE) certification.
Freeport High School Principal Tripp Hope has been communicating with parents of
students enrolled in the classes but has been pulled into the fray for allegedly improperly
handling some students, alongside Woodworth and the SRO, according to statements made to
the press by Carlock.
Many parents say they are keeping their children home until they are satisfied they will be safe if
attending the program, and any abusers are removed.
Superintendent Russell Hughes was alerted to the issue Sunday night and is making
sure there will be a properly certified ESE teacher in that classroom.
Hughes told the Herald/Breeze he was a little sideswiped by the news Sunday
night/early Monday morning as emails and calls from concerned parents started to roll in as he
had not heard anything about the issue before then.
Hughes said, “Every one of our schools went through and are certified in reporting
through the Children’s Advocacy Center because want to know, we want to protect, we want to
be aware before or as soon as possible if there might be an issue. That was a first for our
district this year. The calls and emails from parents are serious and their children are the most
important and valuable part of our district.
“Once the calls and emails started coming in I got on the phone with the appropriate
agencies and made sure we were all on the same page and they were active in seeking
answers. Now, I have to let them do their jobs until they decide what has happened and provide

facts and protection for our children who always come first, but also our employees and anyone
else involved.
“We want to make sure if there has been an issue it is swiftly and justly addressed, but
we have to as well make sure we understand that if there is not an issue or a different one, we
have not done damage based on what has not been thoroughly investigated, and properly
reported. I want facts, and those take a little time, but I want our staff and employees to always
report anything they see or know of that might protect a child.”
As far as the accused teacher being off campus during the investigation, Hughes said
an employee is on leave, and that was to allow all involved, children first, and then employees,
to have the allegations properly investigated and then promptly handled.
When questioned on the employ dismissal that took place last week, he responded the
district had released an employee that was on probation the week prior.
Hughes said this issue was utmost on his mind Wednesday afternoon. “Our kids are
everything and our employees are valued, and we want answers, and facts, and when we have
those, we will respond appropriately and swiftly.”