Smith, Gauntt found not guilty for failure to report child abuse

Published: Aug. 22, 2015 at 2:55 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 22, 2015 at 2:39 PM CDT
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PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Paragould School District's top two administrators have been found not guilty in a lawsuit filed against them.

In October 2014, Superintendent Debbie Smith and Assistant Superintendent Scott Gauntt were ordered to appear in court for failing to report child abuse.

Those court records stated that Smith and Gauntt failed to report "suspected maltreatment of the two specific male students" to the Arkansas State Police Child Abuse Hotline.

The allegations centered around former Paragould teacher Nicole Winberry. Winberry later resigned from Paragould and went to Osceola, where she was arrested on sexual assault charges for her alleged interactions with male students there.

According to Smith and Gauntt's attorney Bill Stanley, the court found the two not guilty of the charges filed against them.

In a statement released to Region 8 News, Stanley stated:

"The court found that the state failed to present any evidence that the information known to the school district rose to the level that reporting was necessary. More importantly, the court specifically found that the state failed to present any evidence that either Ms. Smith or Mr. Gauntt had any information or knowledge regarding the allegations which would have necessitated their reporting to the abuse hotline.  Both Ms. Smith and Mr. Gauntt are pleased to have been exonerated. The Paragould School District takes all allegations of inappropriate conduct by teachers seriously and investigates any and all allegations thoroughly.  The District strives to provide a safe and secure learning environment for all students."

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