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Four Nye County school faculty members accused of child abuse/neglect

Updated Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010 | 8:20 p.m.

Pahrump Arrests

Holly Ann Lepisto Launch slideshow »

The Nye County Sheriff’s Office arrested four faculty members at Floyd Elementary School on Tuesday after a teacher and two aides were accused of physically punishing students with mental and physical disabilities, officials said.

Teacher Sarah Hopkins, 52, aides Phyllis DuShane, 73, and Kathryn Cummings, 56, and Principal Holly Lepisto, 53, were arrested Tuesday on five counts of child abuse/neglect and one count conspiracy to commit a crime, a Sheriff’s Office news release said.

According to the news release, detectives conducted an investigation at the school and found that Hopkins and the aides were using unreasonable physical punishment on children for at least the last two school years.

Four children were identified as victims; they had challenges that included visual impairment, cerebral palsy, speech challenges and hearing impairment, the release said.

Detectives found that Lepisto was advised of allegations about Hopkins but did “an extremely poor investigation” with no additional follow-up, the release said. Detectives believe Lepisto may have given school employees the impression that such behavior was accepted, police said.

Detectives said Lepisto also failed to notify the Sheriff’s Office or the Division of Child and Family Services upon learning of the alleged abuse.

The suspects were being held at Nye County Sheriff’s Office jail on $35,000 bail.

The Pahrump Disability Outreach Program, a non-profit support group for the families of children with disabilities, released a statement Tuesday night saying that it has "faith that the school district will address this issue immediately" and that it hopes the situation is an "isolated incident." It goes on to say that the community will "not tolerate this type of behavior from anyone."

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