Durham Public Schools clears Eno Valley teacher of any wrongdoing, dismisses abuse claim

Vashawne Dawson, pictured, is demanding that the Durham Public Schools investigate an Eno Valley Elementary School teacher he alleges mistreated his stepson.
Vashawne Dawson, pictured, is demanding that the Durham Public Schools investigate an Eno Valley Elementary School teacher he alleges mistreated his stepson.

Allegations that a teacher at Eno Valley Elementary School mistreated a young student could not be substantiated during a Durham Public Schools investigation of the charges, school officials said in an emailed statement Friday, June 2.

The child’s mother allegedly squirted the teacher with lighter fluid while threatening to burn both the teacher and the school

The teacher has been returned to classroom duty without restrictions, DPS said Friday.

“The teacher in question is the victim of an alleged attack,” DPS said in its official statement. “We regret that she also has been subject to unsubstantiated public accusations of misconduct.”

School officials cleared the teacher of any wrongdoing after talking with teacher assistants who worked with her and students in her class.

“No one has reported seeing mistreatment of students,” the statement said.

While the teacher has been named publicly, The Herald-Sun does not typically name victims of assault.

The DPS investigation, which began Wednesday morning, was led by DPS Board of Education attorney Ken Soo and the teacher was suspended with pay during the probe.

“Durham Public Schools takes any allegations of inappropriate conduct by its employees seriously and investigates them thoroughly,” the statement said.

Vashawne Dawson, 39, the live-in boyfriend of Shequelia Leonard, 30, the Durham woman jailed in April after allegedly squirting lighter fluid on the teacher, told The Herald-Sun on Tuesday that the teacher taped his live-in girlfriend’s 6-year-old son’s mouth shut on at least 10 occasions.

Community activist Victoria Peterson, who has been assisting Dawson, first made the claim without naming the teacher or the school during a DPS Board of Education meeting last week.

She also spoke to the school board Thursday about the matter during a work session, contending that she is aware of at least three other families that have had similar experiences.

On Friday, after the DPS statement was released, Peterson said DPS should not be in the business of investigating itself.

“They need to call in the District Attorney and ask him to investigate,” Peterson said. “It needs to be an independent investigation, not by the school system. That’s a conflict.”

According to the statement, DPS offered to the meet with the child at the center of the Eno Valley allegation, but the family did not show up for the scheduled meeting.

“The student did not come to the scheduled meeting and the individual who reported the allegations has not responded to our calls since then,” the statement said.

Peterson said Dawson was advised to not attend the meeting unless he had a lawyer to accompany him.

Dawson said the boy told him the abuse took place on at least 10 occasions in the weeks before Leonard met with the teacher and Eno Valley Principal Rodney Berry on April 24, the date Leonard allegedly assaulted the teacher.

Dawson filed a letter of complaint to DPS on Tuesday.

And in an interview Tuesday, Dawson said Leonard regrets the attack on the teacher, but was frustrated and angry about her son’s claims of abuse and a refusal by Berry to move the boy to another class.

Leonard remains in the Durham County jail in lieu of $500,000 bond.

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645