All four of the cases are being investigated by the DCF and ultimately were brought to the attention of the Sheriff's Office for criminal investigation. In August, DCF received 307 reports of alleged abuse across Okaloosa County. That number was up 17 from the same month in 2016.
Four Okaloosa County School District personnel were placed on administrative leave this week pending the results of child abuse investigations.
At least one of the employees, a teacher's aide at Walker Elementary School in Crestview, has already been cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.
Additionally, two Elliott Point Elementary staff members and one from Destin Elementary are on leave, according to a school district document obtained by the Northwest Florida Daily News.
School district spokesman Henry Kelley is on vacation and did not reply to an email seeking more information. No other district spokesman was identified in his absence.
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) does not release information on active investigations. The Sheriff's Office released information on the case that has been closed, but indicated that the others remain active investigations.
The Walker employee was placed on leave Oct. 9 while the other three were placed on leave as of Oct. 11.
According to the Sheriff's Office's incident report, a teacher's assistant at Walker was accused of striking a child. The incident was on surveillance video but could not be clearly seen because of a crowd of students standing between it and the camera.
What can be seen is a student standing near the assistant before ending up on the ground. After helping the child off the ground, the child hit her and ran away, according to the report.
Another school official saw the incident and said she witnessed the assistant putting her hands on the child "in such a manner (the child) fell to the ground."
The child landed on his belly and then jumped up and checked his cheek/jaw area as if making sure it was OK, the report said. He then slapped the assistant on her shoulder and ran away.
The witness said she saw the incident in her peripheral vision.
The school notified the child's mother about the incident, the report said.
The deputy interviewed the child, who told him that he and the teacher's assistant were playing a game in which they slap each other. He said she did not slap him hard and that he fell to the ground on his own. He also said he was the one who took it too far.
"Based on this, no crime has been committed," the report said.
All four of the cases are being investigated by the DCF and ultimately were brought to the attention of the Sheriff's Office for criminal investigation.
In August, DCF received 307 reports of alleged abuse across Okaloosa County. That number was up 17 from the same month in 2016.
Although a great deal of attention is focused on alleged abuse by school district employees in the last two months, DaMonica Rivas, a spokesperson for DCF, said spikes in child abuse reports can not be credibly linked to the publicity a high-profile case receives.
"It's not very clear or accurate" to attempt to make such a connection, Rivas said. "Things could be happening in the community." For example, Rivas noted that child abuse reports always spike during April, which is child abuse prevention month. "It's misleading to say we see an increase in investigations because of this case," she said.
Three current or former Okaloosa County School District employees face charges following a Sheriff's Office investigation into a 2016 case of alleged child abuse involving special needs students at Kenwood Elementary.
Former Kenwood special education teacher Marlynn Stillions was arrested Sept. 13 and charged with four counts of felony child abuse without great bodily harm. Former Kenwood principal Angelyn Vaughan and school district investigator Arden Farley have been charged with multiple counts of felony failure to report child abuse.