Durham teacher did not mistreat student before being assaulted by parent, school system says

Shequelia Sheala Leonard (Durham Police)


DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Durham Public Schools said it investigated and found no evidence to suggest one of its teacher abused a student at Eno Valley Elementary School.

Shequela Leonard, 30, claimed that mistreatment led her to throw lighter fluid on her son’s kindergarten teacher.

RELATED: Durham mom douses teacher with lighter fluid during meeting, police say

Victoria Peterson, a community activist and family friend, said Leonard was enraged, and that she hoped the teacher would be held accountable.

Police said Leonard threw the lighter fluid on that teacher during a parent/teacher conference back in April. They said Leonard became angry when the teacher criticized her son’s behavior.

Vashawne Dawson, Leonard’s fiancee sent DPS a letter this week calling for an investigation into the allegations.

Durham Public Schools said it investigated and released the following statement:

A teacher accused in the media of mistreating a student at Eno Valley Elementary School has been returned to duty without restrictions after our investigation of the accusations… We have interviewed staff at Eno Valley, including teacher assistants who worked directly with the teacher. We also have interviewed students in the class. No one has reported seeing mistreatment of students. The teacher in question is the victim of an alleged attack. We regret that she also has been subject to unsubstantiated public accusations of misconduct.

The teacher was suspended with pay during the investigation but has since returned to the duty.

The school board’s attorney led the investigation, which included an offer to meet the student who was said to be abused. Durham Public Schools said it set up a meeting with the child involved but that he never came. Officials said calls to the home have not been returned.

Peterson said the investigation was rushed, and that it should have been done by an entity not connected to the school district.

“The teacher works for the school system, the school system should have hired or reached out either to the police department or to the District Attorney’s office,” Peterson said.

Peterson showed CBS North Carolina the request Leonard put in to have her son transferred to another school. In it, she said he was bullied but nothing about the teacher mistreating him.

When CBS North Carolina stopped by his home, the boy’s step-father declined to say why he hadn’t gone to the meeting with school officials.

Leonard is charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, malicious use of explosives causing injury and misdemeanor communicating threats. She was ordered not to have any contact with the teacher and to stay at least 1,000 feet away from the school and board of education.

Leonard’s case was heard in court Thursday to try to get her bond reduced so that she could be at home with her children, but that did not happen.

Her case will be heard again next month.

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