Two former Cumberland Co. school employees face charges

Danny Mandell Pettigrew and Terry Van Drake

Two former Cumberland County school employees are facing charges for assaulting students.

Danny Mandell Pettigrew and Terry Van Drake
Danny Mandell Pettigrew and Terry Van Drake

Both suspects, who worked at Pauline Jones Middle School, were arrested Tuesday by sheriff deputies.

Pauline Jones is an alternative school for students with behavior issues. Cumberland County Sheriff deputies say at least four students were attacked by the employees in separate incidents.

Terry Drake, a safe school coordinator at the middle school, faces three charges of child abuse.

The sheriff’s office said that in October, Drake was accused of grabbing three children by the wrist and forcing them to the ground.

Drake refused to open his door and speak to WNCN about the incident.

Authorities said on Oct. 28, Drake grabbed a child by the wrist and pulled the child from a desk. Later that day, he grabbed the child by the wrist, forced the child from the desk and to the ground.

Drake then put his knee in the child’s back, police said.

Also on Oct. 28, Drake grabbed a minor by the wrist and pulled the boy off balance before taking him to the ground, police said. The two struggled on the ground until Drake pulled the minor’s hands behind his back. Drake then pushed the minor into a desk.

On Oct. 30, Drake again grabbed a student by the wrist and pulled them out of a desk to the ground. Drake forced the child’s hands behind their back before forcing them into a desk, police said.

Also charged is Danny Pettigrew. According to the school’s website, Pettigrew was a 5th and 6th grade teacher at the school. He is charged with grabbing a student by the neck and chest and throwing the child against the wall in November.

Pettigrew wasn’t home when a WNCN reporter stopped in Wednesday. But his longtime neighbor and friend, Ron Liggins, said Pettigrew served in the military and is widely celebrated as an educator.

“I’m totally aware of the type of school he was in, and that type of school needed a particular type of person to be able to stay as long in that school, over 20 years in that school without a bad report,” Liggins said. “That’s how long he’s been there, over 20 years, so this is totally ridiculous. So my thing is walk in his shoes.”

School district superintendent Frank Till said both suspects are no longer employed with the school system.

They were released on bond and are scheduled to be back in court Feb. 9.


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