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Posted: December 21, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Child cruelty case dismissed

Instructor, paraprofessional charged in March

 All charges against a special education teacher and paraprofessional arrested in March for cruelty to children were dismissed by a grand jury Friday.

 Derrick Roberts, a special education teacher at Alcovy High School, and Nanette Surber, a paraprofessional, had been charged with simple battery misdemeanor and child cruelty felony after another school system employee reported to authorities that she allegedly witnessed acts such as putting soap in the mouth of a severely handicapped, non-verbal student and placing packing tape over the mouth of the same student.

 Roberts and Surber both testified before the Newton County Superior Court grand jury on Friday, according to Roberts’ attorney Michael Waters.

 "After hearing his testimony and after hearing the testimony of Surber, [the grand jury] dropped all the charges," Waters said.

 He said his client spoke mainly about his job responsibilities, why he became a special education teacher and how seriously he took those responsibilities. Roberts also addressed the allegations against him, which were made by what Waters described as a "disgruntled paraprofessional that was in his classroom previously that he had to have removed for various reasons."

 Through his attorney, Roberts, who left the school system and education field, said in a statement: "I am pleased and relieved with the outcome of Friday’s grand jury hearing. I was confident that if the truth finally came out, I would be exonerated of any wrongdoing. Nonetheless, it has been a long and stressful eight months for my wife and me. This situation has cost me not only a career but a great deal of anxiety and hardship, and I am ready to move on with my life."

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