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2 Greensburg Salem teachers accused of inappropriately restraining students

Two Greensburg Salem teachers accused of inappropriately restraining students
Two Greensburg Salem teachers accused of inappropriately restraining students 02:00

GREENSBURG, PA (KDKA) — Two teachers from Greensburg Salem School District are facing charges for alleged inappropriate restraining methods of students in their care. 

The Westmoreland County District Attorney's Office said in a news release on Thursday afternoon that an investigation by Greensburg police led to the arrest of Brooke Stanko and Teri Kepchia. 

Both worked at Nicely Elementary School in the Greensburg Salem School District. The incidents took place between Sept. 1, 2023, and Oct. 26, 2023. Stanko was a special education teacher and Kepchia was a teacher's aide. 

According to the criminal complaint, the two sprayed lemon juice and then soapy water into the mouth of an 8-year-old child while holding the child's arms in place. 

That child, along with two other children, ages 7 and 6, were allegedly restrained in 4x6 sounding walls. Two of the children were pinned under sounding mats so tightly that they couldn't move their arms, court documents say. 

On another occasion, Stanko allegedly threw one of the children onto a crash mat repeatedly. 

Stanko and Kepchia are facing charges of endangering the welfare of children, simple assault, failure to report or refer and false imprisonment of a minor. 

Monique Sonner said her son, 8-year-old Gio Bevilacqua, was one of the victims, He has autism and is non-verbal. She said she saw changes in him after the abuse.

"It started to where I couldn't even get him on the bus," she said. "By the time I got him out the door, he would vomit on himself being so upset."

Sonner said she got a call from Greensburg Salem's superintendent in October after someone reported that children with special needs were being abused. The superintendent told KDKA-TV that the report was made by a Greensburg Salem employee from another school within the district.

2 Pittsburgh-area teachers accused of inappropriately restraining students 04:21

"I pictured things where I go to sleep, what they did to him. It's just very traumatizing for all of us," she said.

"It's just outrageous," said Ernest Bevilacqua, the 8-year-old boy's father. "I don't understand how they don't have any kind of process how to weed these kind of people out?"

Gio's parents removed him from the school in November and are trying to figure out where to place him.

"He's fearful of everybody," the boy's mother said.

Now, all the family can do is wait.

"I look at this and I can only picture a monster," the boy's father said. "Who would hurt a special needs child?"

In a letter sent to the community, Greensburg Salem Superintendent Ken Bissell said, in part:

"We are saddened that the actions and inactions within a classroom of children with the most significant support needs violated the safety needs of children and broke the trust for a loving, caring and respectful environment."

He went on to say that any adult who violates "the expectations of respect, love and care" is not welcomed in the school district.

The two women have not turned themselves in to law enforcement yet, but the criminal complaint says Kepchia admitted to spraying lemon juice and soapy water in Gio's mouth. She also said Stanko told her to do it, the documents say.

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