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Daycare workers wanted for taunting, abusing autistic boy, police say

Law enforcement officials are looking for two Florida daycare workers who they say berated, taunted and threw a backpack at an 8-year-old autistic boy.

>> Read more trending news

Winter Haven police, in Central Florida, retrieved a Snapchat video of the alleged abuse at Our Children’s Academy in Winter Haven.

The three-minute video, investigators say, shows Kaderrica Smith, of Haines City, and Alexus Henderson, of Dundee, harassing the child.

The boy, who is diagnosed with autism, ADHD, obsessive defiant disorder and severe outbursts, is seen and heard in the video crying and hiding under a table while the women taunt him.

Investigators say the duo yelled at him and threw shoes and a backpack at him while he was trying to hide. They also purposely knocked him over by doing a leg sweep, which caused him to fall on his back. 

>> Related: 6th grade teacher suspended, apologizes for profanity-laced homework assignment

In initial interviews, Smith and Henderson said they acted appropriately and did nothing wrong, according to the police news release. The daycare academy fired them, and their certifications allowing them to work with children were placed on hold.

Further investigation led to criminal charges being filed. Smith is charged with battery and child abuse. Henderson is being charged with child neglect.

>> Related: Abandoned meth lab discovered in Miami after Hurricane Irma

Since charges have been filed, police have been unable to find the women

Georgia teacher uses racial slur in attempt to comfort 9-year-old black student

One elementary school in Columbus, Georgia, is making headlines after one of its teachers allegedly used a racial slur while speaking with a 9-year-old student. 

On Sept. 7, Harmonie Frazier, a fourth-grader at Reese Road Elementary, told her parents, Equisha and Nathan Frazier, that an instructor used the N-word after a student said she was glad to be white and not black.

According to the Fraziers, the teacher attempted to comfort Harmonie.  The Ledger-Enquirer reported that, at a school board meeting Equisha Frazier repeated what the teacher allegedly told her daughter.,

“At least she didn’t refer to you as a dumb, black, Negro (slur),” Equisha Frazier said. “And I’m saying it exactly how she said it to my child.”

>> Read more trending news

Soon after the Fraziers learned about the alleged incident, they scheduled a meeting with the school’s principal, Katrina Long, to discuss the claims. While the teacher admitted to using the racial slur, the school has not disclosed what disciplinary action has been taken. 

“We are aware of the allegation, but as you know we cannot comment on personnel matters. As with any allegation regarding school personnel, our principal, region and Human Resource Department conducted a thorough investigation and followed up as appropriate,” the Muscogee County School District said in a statement. 

The district later followed up with a second statement:

“Muscogee County School District does not tolerate racial slurs or discriminatory behavior by anyone in our organization. In instances where such behavior is determined to have occurred, disciplinary action is taken. As an employer, and in accordance with Board Policy GAE, the District investigates any such allegations and takes appropriate disciplinary and corrective action but does not disclose the specifics regarding personnel matters.”

Despite the acknowledgement of the incident, the Fraziers have since removed Harmonie from the school.

On Monday night, the student’s parents brought the issue to the Muscogee County School Board. 

However, board members reiterated that the issue was private and would not be discussed in public. The Associated Press reported that Superintendent David Lewis said disclosing disciplinary action for the teacher is against policy.

The Fraziers are now working to help Harmonie deal with the trauma. 

“My baby experienced something,” Equisha Frazier, Harmonie’s mother, said during the school board meeting. “She was opened up to something that she shouldn’t have to be opened up to. She doesn’t see color.”

6th grade teacher suspended, apologizes for profanity-laced homework assignment

A middle school teacher in metro Atlanta is apologizing to her students and their parents after the music teacher sent 6th graders home with an assignment filled with explicit lyrics.

>> Read more trending news

Parent Crishana Wright said she was outraged when she saw the assignment.

"She's not in my household. She doesn't know how we run things. So, to push something she feels is appropriate, I have a problem with that," Wright told WSB-TV.

DeKalb County schools also had a problem with the assignment.

They removed Bonnecia Williams from the classroom at Mary McLeud Bethune Middle School.

Williams has issued an apology to parents that reads:

"At no time should students be subjected to this type of language at impressionable ages. Regardless of my best intentions, I failed miserably. I should have used better judgment,” she wrote.

The assignment featured lyrics from rapper Kodak Black from a song titled "Drownin."

Students were tasked with taking expletive-laden, violent and sexually suggestive lyrics and coming up with something more positive.

"I saw that, and I was like, ‘My mom would be mad,’" daughter Kalani said.

"I probably would have asked, 'What were you thinking and don't  you think that's something you should have gotten permission for?' She shouldn't have handed it out anyway," Wright said.

The DeKalb County Schools superintendent weighed in, calling the assignment inappropriate, unacceptable and contrary to the district's standards. 

>> Related: Student disciplined for posting racist signs over high school water fountains

Williams continued in her apology letter:

"I know this letter alone will not erase the pain that I have caused. I will make sure this does not happen again. I accept full responsibility for my actions,” she said.

"I hate that she is no longer there, or whatever the case may be, but you're dealing with children's minds and you have to be cautious," Wright said.

Oops! FEMA mistakenly tweets number for sex line, instead of disaster relief

While offering help to Florida residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the Federal Emergency Management Agency accidentally tweeted a phone number for a sex line.

>> Read more trending news

According to the Consumerist, FEMA Region 4’s Twitter account instructed people who needed disaster relief to call 1-800-ROOF-BLU for their program called “Operation Blue Roof,” which helps homeowners repair damaged roofs. 

Twitter users quickly caught the mistake, and tweeted out that the phone number was directing them to a sex hotline. 

“Callers who dial that number, however, are greeted by an automated message welcoming callers to ‘America’s hottest talk line,’ where ‘hot ladies’ are purportedly waiting to talk to guys, and women can talk to ‘interesting and exciting guys’ for ‘free,’” the Consumerist reports. 

FEMA posted a new tweet with the correct phone number, which is 1-888-ROOF-BLU.

>>Related: FEMA opens Boynton center as Florida aid tops $106 million

The Consumerist reports that once they tried to contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA, the incorrect tweet was taken down, but neither agency verbally responded to the media outlet. 

Teenager accuses high school counselor of molesting her at school, police say

A Florida high school counselor has been arrested after a 15-year-old girl said she was molested at school, authorities said.

>> Read more trending news

Mount Dora High School counselor Jason William Roberts, 40, of Oxford, is accused of molesting the teenager between Jan. and March, according to police.

The girl told police on Sept. 1 that the incidents occurred in a “test” classroom at the school. 

On one occasion, two other students went into the test classroom and Roberts told the girl not to say a word and that he would go to jail for his actions and for the way he spoke to her, police said.

The teen told police that in the moment she thought what Roberts was doing was “ok” because she wanted attention and no one wanted to date her, investigators said. The teen said Roberts's attention filled a void and that she felt like she was in a relationship with him, investigators said.

"I was heartbroken that my daughter had to go through that and angry, of course. I was angry," the teen's mother, who didn't want to be identified, said.

Roberts is also accused of texting the teen and then telling her to delete them, police said.

>> Related: Child molestation arrest slips through background checks

The mother told Channel 9 that she realized the teen and Roberts were texting each other, but never filed a formal complaint.

Read more here.

Study: Flint's fertility rates plummeted after lead appeared in water

Findings from a new study shows that the lead contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, caused an increase in infant death rates and lower fertility rates.

Daniel Grossman and David Slusky, economics professors at the University of Kansas, released a working paper comparing birth and fetal death rates in Flint against other cities in Michigan.

Their research showed that fertility rates decreased by as much as 12 percent among Flint women and fetal death rates increased by 58 percent.

"This represents a couple hundred fewer children born that otherwise would have been," Slusky said.

Birth weights also went down during the contamination period, according to MLive.com.

Read more about the study here.

What happened in Flint? 

For years, Flint, which is 60 miles from Detroit, got its tap water via Detroit’s water system which is drawn from Lake Huron. In 2014, Flint officials decided that the cost of using Detroit’s system was growing too expensive and they wanted to establish an independent water system that included their own pipeline to Lake Huron. 

It would take a while to fund and build the pipeline, so, wanting to save money, officials decided to leave the Detroit system in April 2014, and use the Flint River as a primary water source until the Lake Huron pipeline was completed.

What’s happening now? 

The city has been under a state of emergency, and people there are using filters and bottled water. 

In 2016, Attorney General Bill Schuette opened an investigation and appointed a special counsel. According to The Associated Press, the state investigation team has more than 20 outside attorneys and investigators and a budget of $1.5 million.

Hero teacher tackles gunman, saves students from rampaging classmate

An eastern Illinois high school teacher tackled a rampaging gunman in the school’s cafeteria Wednesday, saving lives and preventing what could have been a much bigger tragedy, authorities said.

>> Read more trending news

One student was injured in the shooting at Mattoon High School and police said, if not for Angela McQueen’s quick-thinking, more children would certainly have been hurt, if not killed.

McQueen, 40, a math and gym teacher, was able to subdue and disarm the student before anyone was fatally injured.

“She’s been trained obviously, but in these scenarios, you just don’t know what’s going to happen until it happens,” Mattoon Police Chief Jeff Branson said during a press conference Wednesday night according to the Shelbyville Daily Union.

“Had the teacher not responded as quickly as she had I think the situation would have been a lot different.”

>> Related: School suspends 5-year-old for making ‘terroristic threats’ about backpack bomb 

The student gunman is in custody, but his name has not been released because he’s a minor.

The school released a statement on social media following the event.

Second sinkhole forms near Florida home

Just days after a sinkhole partially swallowed a home in Apopka, Florida, a second sinkhole has formed on the same road.

>> Read more trending news

Orange County Fire Rescue officials were called Thursday to a home at 517 West Kelly Park Road in Apopka, where a 30-foot by 30-foot sinkhole was found about 100 feet from the home, according to authorities.

A separate sinkhole formed Tuesday morning at 222 West Kelly Park Road, just a few homes away from Thursday’s depression.

Thursday's sinkhole, which opened up near a greenhouse, is not endangering any property, officials said. 

The two sinkholes have caught the attention of Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson, who visited the home swallowed by a sinkhole Thursday.

"It's a total loss," he said.

Nelson, who works as an insurance agent, said the problem for homeowners in the area will be finding an insurance company to cover that area in the near future. 

"Some insurance companies probably won't want to write insurance in this area until they kind of figure out what's going on," he said. 

Emergency crews were called at 8:22 a.m. Tuesday to the home on West Kelly Park Road in Apopka. Family members said they began noticing the depression Monday night.

"I saw big, deep cracks in the bathroom. The tub was sinking and the window was coming loose, and I said, 'It's time to go,'" homeowner Ellen Miller said.

The family said they grabbed everything they could and moved it to the front lawn before their home crumbled into the 25-foot by 15-foot hole.

"We made it through the hurricane. We were really, really lucky, and then this," Miller said. "This is the only home I know. It's the only home my kids know."

The Millers will stay with their daughter next door while they figure out their next step.

>> Florida home partially swallowed by sinkhole

Although it’s not known if the sinkhole is related to Hurricane Irma, experts said sinkholes aren’t uncommon after hurricanes.

“When you have heavy rains, the chances of sinkholes (appearing goes) up quite a bit,” said Dr. Manoj Chopra, a UCF engineering professor.

He said sinkholes can form when the rain and floodwaters caused by hurricanes start to recede.

Sinkholes can happen suddenly. Miller said the hole under her home formed in a matter of hours.

“We watched it all night and it got bigger and deeper and finally, at 4 in the morning, I saw big deep cracks in the bathroom,” she said. 

Chopra expects more sinkholes to form throughout the state.

How to help Hurricane Maria victims: Where to donate, how to volunteer and more

After hitting the U.S. Virgin Islands as a Category 5 storm, Hurricane Maria plowed through Puerto Rico, flooding streets, collapsing homes and leaving the entire territory without power Wednesday.

>> Read more trending news 

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosseló called Hurricane Maria the “most devastating storm to hit the island this century, if not in modern history.”

» RELATED: Hurricane Maria: Live updates

The dangerous hurricane is responsible for at least 15 deaths on the Caribbean island of Dominica alone, and, according to the National Hurricane Center, the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos are expected to see a “life-threatening” storm surge of 9 to 12 feet between Thursday and early next week.

» RELATED: Where is Hurricane Maria now? Track the massive storm as it heads north

How you can help the victims of Hurricane Maria

Make monetary donations

According to the United States Agency for International Development, giving money to reputable relief agencies and nonprofits is the most effective way to help and to avoid using resources to transport or deliver donated goods.

Here are some organizations to consider giving money to:

UNICEF (emergency relief and help for children affected)

Save the Children (emergency relief and help for children affected)

ConPRmetidos (Puerto Rico-based nonprofit to benefit “immediate needs of food, shelter, water” and more)

GlobalGiving Caribbean Hurricane Maria & Irma Relief Fund (from US-based nonprofit, Global Giving)

SPCA International (help for animal rescue and care)

» RELATED: How you can help Mexico and people affected by the Mexico earthquake

Other crowdfunding campaigns:

21 US Virgin Island Relief Fund (NBA star Tim Duncan hoping to raise $5 million for his home country)

Dominica Hurricane Maria Relief Fund (bringing relief to Dominica)

Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Hurricane Relief Fund (to help families and countries rebuild after hurricanes)

Check if your employer will match your donation

Doublethedonation.com has a nifty tool that lets you enter your company name to find out whether or not your employer offers a matching gift program for donations.

Donate blood

The American Red Cross urges volunteer blood donors to give blood year-round, not only at the time of disaster. Currently, platelets and type O blood donations are especially needed, according to the organization website.

Visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to begin the donation process.

» RELATED: Disaster declared in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastates island

Donate goods

Monetary donations are preferred for most aid organizations, but refer to your local nonprofits to see if there is an additional need for goods donations.

If you’re in the Florida area, the Miami Herald has listed several donation spots for locals to bring non-perishable food, diapers, bottled water and clothing starting Friday.

» RELATED: NASA astronaut captures eerie images of Hurricane Irma’s destruction from space

Volunteer

The American Red Cross is looking to dispatch volunteers in the next few weeks to aid areas affected by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

Local residents in affected areas should use this form.

All non-local residents interested in volunteering should use this separate form.

More information about volunteer expectations and requirements is at redcross.org.

Aaron Hernandez had 'severe' stage 3 CTE, researchers say

Former pro-football player and convicted killer Aaron Hernandez has “the most severe case” of CTE Boston University researchers have ever seen, Attorney Jose Baez said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. 

>> Read more trending news

In light of the results of an inquest into the former Patriot’s brain, Baez has filed a federal lawsuit against the NFL and the New England Patriots.

Baez said the results of a post-mortem study conducted on Hernandez's brain showed signs of a severe case of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

"If we knew more about it," he said. "Our client may have known more about what was happening to him."

Baez was accompanied by Shayanna Jenkins, Hernandez’s long-time fiancée and said the lawsuit is on behalf of Hernandez's daughter.

“We had a heated battle with the Suffolk county medical examiner’s office for the brain of Aaron Hernandez so it could be studied by the Boston University CTE center,” Baez explained. "I’d like to thank Dr. Anne McKee for all the hard work they’ve done. The results of Aaron Hernandez’s test were positive. Aaron suffered from a severe case of CTE.” 

>> Related: Judge decides to vacate Aaron Hernandez’s murder conviction

“We’re told it was the most severe case they had ever seen for someone of Aaron’s age,” he said. “[The degree in his brain] is usually found in the brain of a man 67 years of age.”

Baez encouraged people who participate in contact sports like football to consider participating in tests. 

“My team has filed a federal lawsuit suing the NFL and the New England Patriots,” Baez announced. “That lawsuit was filed this afternoon."

The high-profile attorney is also set to appear on ESPN's SportsCenter Friday morning, according to his Instagram account. 

Baez released a statement earlier this year calling for a full investigation into the football star's apparent suicide. He said there were apparently no signs that the former New England Patriots player was suicidal.

>> Related: Hernandez lawyer, agent dispute suicide claims, want full investigation

Hernandez was in the process of appealing his murder conviction, which came with a life sentence with no possibility of parole. Baez was the lead attorney on the double murder case that Hernandez was acquitted earlier this year. 

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