VIDEO: Former Bainbridge teacher charged with battery after incident with child with autism

Avondika Shereaca Cherry (Source: Decatur Co. Sheriff)
Avondika Shereaca Cherry (Source: Decatur Co. Sheriff)

BAINBRIDGE, GA (WALB) - Law enforcement in Decatur County is investigating a former teacher in Bainbridge who is accused of assaulting a 6-year-old student with autism.

Investigators say this happened at the Pathways Educational Program in Bainbridge in October.

The office of Solicitor-General Benjamin David Harrell and the Decatur County School Police are investigating the incident.

Avondika Cherry was arrested on November 8 and bonded out and has been charged with simple battery. Investigators say additional charges against Cherry could follow.

In classroom security video from October 9, investigators say you can see Cherry hitting the student while another student was in the classroom.

WARNING: The video may be hard for some viewers to watch.

On October 10, another security video shows Cherry speaking to several other staff members about the incident.

Those staff members have been identified as Melissa Williams-Brown and Phyllis Rambo.

That video can be viewed below, but it has been edited to conceal the name of the child.

Williams-Brown and Rambo have both been charged with failing to report child abuse.

Pathways Director Jeanene Wallace said Cherry and Williams-Brown are no longer employed at Pathways.

"Your worst nightmare, you never want to know that a child you work with has been mistreated. I hope that the message is that we won't tolerate this kind of behavior, no child needs to be mistreated," said Wallace.

The Thomas County School System operates the program that serves eight school systems in six different counties in South Georgia.

"I want to reassure everyone that the safety of our children is our number one concern in Thomas County and there is certainly no place in our school district for any employee who does not put the safety of our school district first, said Thomas Co. Superintendent Dr. Dusty Kornegay.

Wallace said she was reviewing classroom footage and came across the video.

She immediately called law enforcement, the Department of Family and Children Services and the child's parent.

"I am grateful that law enforcement is taking it seriously. This kind of behavior won't be tolerated," said Wallace. "I think there is even a higher level of concern for their safety because sometimes our students cant always verbalize if something is happening.

Wallace said the staff at this Decatur County location went through a training in August about child abuse reporting.

"It hurts me to tell the parents that something happened to their child," said Wallace.

Wallace has been with the school system for more than 20 years and said this is the first incident she has ever come across at the Pathways program and hopes that it won't ever happen again.

"When we become aware of a situation like this we take it very seriously. The employees involved are no longer employed with our system," said Kornegay.

Wallace said they provide teachers with de-escalation training to help teach students with learning disabilities.

The Thomas County School system operates the program in Decatur County.

They use the Decatur County School System's facility.

DCSS staff said that is why the Decatur County School Police are investigating because it occurred on their property.

Decatur County Superintendent Tim Cochran spoke to WALB by phone on Wednesday releasing this statement:

"We are all here for the kids. When someone does something that is unprofessional it is important for us to take action. We support what the Thomas County School System has done to ensure this incident was handled properly." - Tim Cochran

The staff members involved in the incident were considered Thomas County School System staff, not Decatur County School System staff.

Harrell released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

Solicitor-General Benjamin David Harrell announced today that his office, working with Investigator Anthony Stubbs of the Decatur County School Police, have an ongoing investigation against a former Bainbridge teacher, Avondika Cherry, for assaulting a 6-year-old autistic student at Pathways Educational Program in Bainbridge. Harrell stated that at this time Cherry has been charged with Simple Battery but that additional charges against Cherry will be forthcoming.

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