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Teacher facing abuse charges is fired


Teacher facing abuse charges is fired

The special education instructor is accused of beating and starving her adopted 4-year-old

May 25, 2001


Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Harllee Middle School special education teacher was fired this week, as prosecutors continued to investigate allegations that she beat and starved her adopted 4-year-old.

Wanda Bennett, who was arrested at school on March 8, remains in the Manatee County jail in lieu of $52,000 bail. She was on paid leave until Tuesday, when her firing by the school superintendent became official.

A bail reduction hearing scheduled for Thursday was postponed until next month.

The Bradenton Police Department began investigating Bennett after her son's day-care provider called 911. The day-care worker reported seeing him "slip in and out of consciousness."

Charged with two felony counts of child abuse, Bennett faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Her other sons, who are now in foster care with their brother, are ages 2, 8 and 10.

Though they initially suspected Bennett of also abusing one of the other three boys, prosecutors dropped those charges and are focusing on the 4-year-old.

According to reports, Bennett beat the boy regularly with shoes and tied him up with old socks to keep him from eating.

Police removed a Wiffle Ball bat from Bennett's residence after her arrest. They say she also beat the boy with the bat.

The boy weighed 35 pounds when police removed him from the home. At All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, doctors reported finding six recent fractures and cigarette burns on his back.

Before working at Harllee Middle, Bennett worked for the state Department of Children and Families in Manatee County and in Tampa in the late 1990s.

Before that, she was a police officer for the Dallas Police Department.

2001 May 25