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School accuses 14-year old non-verbal Autistic girl of felony assault

{}{} Jenny Holcomb says she couldn't believe it when Marion County sheriff deputies appeared out of nowhere to serve her court papers, charging her 14-year old autistic{}daughter, Emily with First-Degree felony assault on a teacher.{} An injunction was also obtained, barring Emily from returning the school indefinitely.

{}{}Holcomb says it all unfolded at Hamilton High School in October while she was there on a unrelated matter with her daughter.{} Little did she know, the system's superintendent, Ryan Hollingsworth had filed a{}First Degree Felony Assault complaint on Emily on behalf of her Special Education teacher.

{} During the alleged assault on October 26, the teacher reported Emily hit and pushed her resulting in a 'mild injury'.{} In the complaint, Superintendent Hollingsworth noted its happened on more than one occasion.

{} Emily's mother says it was a violent act but just Emily's way of expressing frustration.{} "You have think about it -- she's trapped inside that body.{} And when people can't understand her it gets frustrating."

{} Emily's mother and her attorney -- James Gallini question the timing of the charge.{} Gallini says they had just settled an agreement with the school system to provide Emily's teachers a professional aide "for training, dealing with her level of autism," said Gallini.{} He believes the charge was an effort to get out of and circumvent the costly agreement.{} "At that point, it took it out of the special ed into the juvenile system."

{} ABC 33/40{}faxed to{}Superintendent Hollingsworth a letter seeking either an on-camera interview or written responses to a number of listed questions related to the criminal complaint he filed and the community's concerns.

{}{}By phone, Hollingsworth stated he was prevented by law from discussing a juvenile's (Emily's) record and file...but would try to answer the questions as best he could.

{}{}ABC 33/40 received an emailed statement consisting of two generalized paragraphs of which Hollingsworth said, "When we believe we have a student who in our opinion, is a threat to students and staff, we may involve the juvenile court system for assistance."

{} Emily's mother{}questions if her daughter is such a threat -- why did the superintendent wait a week to file the complaint and not express concerns to her first.{}{} In the statement to ABC 33/40, Hollingsworth noted, "We investigate the matter and react in a timely manner to address safety concerns." However, its not clear whether that was direct response to the timing question.

{} Emily's attorney Gallini has filed a complaint regarding the case with the State Board of Education.

{} Meanwhile, Emily remains homebound with a professional aide at the school system's expense.{} However, Hollingsworth declined to comment on the cost.{} ABC 33/40 has learned the homebound situation will continue until an evaluation can be done to determine whether Emily is competent enough to stand trial on the criminal charge.

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