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Court docs: Another Chesterfield preschool teacher spanked, grabbed students' hair; more victims possible

Posted at 1:45 PM, May 02, 2023

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — Newly-obtained court documents detailed what allegedly transpired inside a Chester Early Childhood Learning Academy preschool classroom that resulted in a teacher's arrest.

Those documents revealed Kathleen Harlow, 65, allegedly admitted to illegally popping a child's bottom and grabbing another child's hair. Harlow marked the second teacher at the same preschool to be charged with assaulting students in a month's time.

On April 13, 2023, a three-year-old boy with autism was wandering around a music classroom, disengaged in the lesson, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Two witnesses, who were also teachers at the school, reported Harlow sat the child down in a chair and positioned the boy in between her knees. The child then tried to get away, cried, and threw his head back and forth.

Then, according to witnesses, Harlow grabbed the child’s hair, held it in a ball, and then let go. That caused the child to fall face-first to the floor.

Harlow reportedly told the witnesses “this is an illegal hair grab.” Harlow proceeded to tell them that she suffered five concussions in her lifetime and did not want to have a sixth.

However, both witnesses stated that the child's body never came into contact with Harlow during the incident.

Harlow allegedly provided a written statement to the school when she was asked about it by the principal. Her statement said she "did not recall an incident," according to the documents.

Harlow then provided the school with an additional statement in which she said she had "gaps in [her] memory" and that she visited a doctor who determined Harlow is "suffering from a concussion which can only be the result of [student] forcefully head-butting" her.

The affidavit states that Harlow gave the child's name to the school in her statement.

Police executed a search warrant for Harlow's medical records that will "either provide evidence of a misrepresentation of records to cover up the crime of assault or provide legitimate defense for Harlow if an injury was noted, consistent with her disclosures to this point."

The school reported this case to Child Protective Services (CPS).

CPS referred the case to Chesterfield Police on April 14.

As police investigated that incident, they learned of another incident involving Harlow.

Documents showed on December 8, 2022, Harlow told another teacher at the preschool that she gave a five-year-old student “an illegal pop on the butt” because the student was trying to climb a ladder in the play gym.

"That is the only way he would listen," she allegedly said.

That teacher told Harlow she’d have to report the incident, but Harlow allegedly then asked the teacher to lie and say a substitute teacher was responsible.

When that teacher later saw the five-year-old boy crying and asked what was wrong, the child replied, “she smacked me.”

Documents showed Harlow admitted to the spanking and gave the principal a written statement saying "it was not a conscience decision" and a "very poor instinct."

She was found guilty by the school district administration and issued a reprimand. The district reminded Harlow of "best practices" told her "any further actions could result in discipline or termination."

Neither the school district nor Child Protective Services reported this incident to Chesterfield Police.

"That incident was referred to CPS. However, it was screened out," Chesterfield Police Capt. Michael Breeden told CBS 6 in an April 2023 interview.

Breeden said the school reported both incidents to CPS but not law enforcement, which is not a violation of state mandatory reporting laws or Chesterfield School Board policy.

The search warrant also showed the school district may have records to include references to “additional victims.”

Harlow's arrest came weeks after another teacher at the same preschool faced similar accusations followed by criminal charges.

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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