FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — Police said an instructional assistant at an elementary school is facing a charge of Assault after two teachers walked into their classroom and saw the assault on a special needs student.

The Fairfax County Police Department said Mark MacDIcken, 60, has worked at Dogwood Elementary School in Weston for about 10 years.

Detectives arrested him Tuesday. He was released on his signature.

Dogwood Elementary School Principal Kate Beckner sent the following letter to families:

9/21/22

Dear Dogwood Families,

I am deeply saddened this morning to share the news of a situation at Dogwood ES involving an instructional assistant.

Fairfax County Police will be sharing with the community today that an instructional assistant has been arrested and charged with assaulting a student in our school. Two staff members who allegedly witnessed the incident immediately contacted administration and we took swift action to contact the authorities. The staff member is currently on administrative leave while this case is resolved. 

I understand this will come as a shock to our community. The primary responsibility for anyone who works in education is the safety and wellbeing of children. When that trust appears to be broken, it affects us all. 

These situations can be upsetting and prompt a variety of emotions. When engaging in conversations with your child, listen calmly and reassuringly, and share a message that you are someone your child can talk to, even in challenging situations. If you have counseling questions or concerns, please reach out to our counselors, Angel Evins and Jen Franconeri at 703-262-3100. Please also contact Fairfax County Police Major Crimes Bureau if you have any information you would like to share at 703-246-7800, option 4.

I am here to answer your questions or concerns, and to support students in any way they need. 

Sincerely,

Kate Beckner

Principal

Victim specialists from the Fairfax County Police Department’s Major Crimes Bureau’s Victim Services Division have been assigned to ensure the child’s family is receiving appropriate resources and assistance.

“It’s always incredibly disheartening to hear about something like this happening,” said Amanda Campbell, the president of the Fairfax County Special Education PTA.

Campbell said while she doesn’t know all the details of the incident, she says her heart “goes out to” the student and their family.

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, children with disabilities are at least three times more likely to be abused or neglected than their peers without disabilities.

“There’s an incredible amount of trust that we put in our staff when we send our kids to school,” Campbell said. “And to rebuild in a moment like this will take some time.”

She hopes consistent communication continues. Campbell said the quick response by FCPS and law enforcement was the first step. In an interview, she also emphasized the importance of qualified staff working with special needs children considering the nationwide staffing shortages — which she says is not new for special education.

“[It] really speaks to the need to focus our effort on special education to ensure that our most vulnerable students have trained, certified, well-supported staff in the classroom.”