BONIFAY — Deputies arrested a Ponce de Leon teacher for paddling a 5-year-old handicapped student on Oct. 11, according to a news release from the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office.
Arrested was Ryan Leavins, 39, of Ponce de Leon on charges of child abuse, according to the sheriff's office. Leavins was a teacher at Ponce de Leon Elementary School.
The investigation started on Sept. 4 when the sheriff’s office received a report of an alleged child abuse at the Ponce de Leon Elementary School.
Police discovered that Leavins had paddled a five-year-old handicapped student, resulting in bruising to the child’s bottom.
Leavins admitted to spanking the child after the child became unruly in class, according to the release.
“The safety and security of our students is our highest priority,” said Superintendent Eddie Dixon on Wednesday. “It is unfortunate that the situation occurred; however it is important to note that the district is following standard procedure and board policy throughout this investigative process.”
In accordance with state law, the case was turned over to the Department of Children and Families as well as the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office for investigation, Dixon said. On Oct. 11 Dixon was notified of the formal charges brought against the employee, according to the release from the superintendent’s office. The school district is engaged with legal counsel throughout this ongoing investigation.
According to the sheriff’s office, Leavins said he asked the child repeatedly to calm down, then showed him the paddle, then took the child out of the classroom on three different occasions and spanked him a total of five times on the buttocks.
Based on the severity of the bruising, Leavins was charged with child abuse, according to the release. Leavins turned himself into custody and was released on his own recognizance.
Leavins was placed on paid administrative leave, pending an investigation into the incident, but Leavins submitted his resignation to the school board on Oct. 11, according to a news release from the superintendent’s office. Leavins’ resignation was accepted by the Holmes County School Board on Oct. 15.