Published 12:00 am Friday, July 22, 2011

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — A Knollwood Elementary School teacher’s assistant has been found guilty of misdemeanor assault on a handicapped person stemming from an incident involving a student in the program for exceptional children.
In April, Janet Pence, 42, of 190 Morning Glory Lane, Cleveland, was arrested after a child, Mary Bolton, then 8, went home with bruises on her leg, police reports said.
Mary is autistic and nonverbal, but the marks confirmed to her parents, Teresa and Shane, that something had happened to her.
Mary was lying on the floor of the classroom when she was grabbed by her leg and “yanked across the floor,” court documents said.
Pence pleaded no contest to the charges and was found guilty last week in District Court. She was given 12 months of supervised probation.
Mary’s mother, Teresa, said the family is glad the ordeal is over.
“We’re happy that it’s been resolved and that this won’t happen again. We hope she gets the help she needs,” she said.
Bolton also said she feels the school needs to provide better training for assistants. She also suggested that schools consider using cameras in the classroom.
The court file includes a picture of Mary’s legs with obvious bruising, scratches and other red marks.
Bolton said in a letter addressed to District Attorney Brandy Cook sent via Sheriff’s Detective Clint Mauldin that her daughter has been severely traumatized from this ordeal.
A copy of the letter, which was written in May, was contained in the court file and includes a request from the parents that Pence not receive a lighter sentence through a plea bargain.
Since the incident, Mary, now 9, has “difficulty trusting others,” the letter said.
Mary’s doctor said the abuse or intimidation had been ongoing for an extended period, the letter said.
“Mary has been so affected that she does not want to spend time with anyone outside of our home, including her grandmother, whom she normally adores,” the letter said.
The child wakes up in the middle of the night and runs for comfort in her parents’ bed.
The Boltons said Pence was supposed to be in a classroom with the door open, but when the others returned, the door was closed and Mary was crying.
“This did not have to occur,” the couple said.
The file also contained various letters from friends, co-workers, Scout leaders and ministers sharing kind words about Pence.
Pence resigned from the position after being arrested. She was arrested two days after the offense was alleged to have happened.
Judge Brent Cloninger also ordered Pence to have a psychiatric evaluation, abide by and pay for anger management assessment, have no contact with Mary, and complete 24 hours of community service. Pence also has to pay court costs, fines and fees which total $432.
Pence did not return a phone call from the Post.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.