NEW HANOVER COUNTY — A Myrtle Grove Middle teaching assistant is no longer with the school after allegedly putting her hands on a 12-year-old student last month in the cafeteria.
Sequana Brown was charged with misdemeanor child abuse and simple assault Sept. 23, more than a week after the incident occurred on the campus.
A warrant for her arrest alleges Brown grabbed and pushed the boy to the floor while she was supervising mealtime. When a school resource officer attempted to break up the altercation, Brown shoved the boy again, causing him to nearly hit his head on the seat behind him, according to the warrant.
Port City Daily spoke with the mother of the victim. She said the morning of the assault, Sept. 15, her son joined the breakfast line for some cereal. Halfway through, she said he got into an argument with the cafeteria worker over what food was set on his tray.
“Apparently, they have to get three items or the state’s not reimbursed,” she said. “My son didn’t know that.”
Her son only wanted cereal, but the staff member forced him to take an apple and a juice as well. After the back and forth, her son threw the disposable tray, apple and juice in the trash, taking only the unopened cereal. While punching in his lunch number, the mother said the cafeteria worker dug the items out of the trash, followed him to his table and placed it in front of him.
The boy swiped the tray off the table, she said, and it hit the nearby teacher assistant somewhere around her foot. She said Brown took the boy’s hat off, and after he put it back on, she slapped it back off. That’s when Brown allegedly became physical with him.
“At one point the teacher’s assistant picked him up and threw him to the ground,” New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lt. Jerry Brewer said. “And as the SRO was getting there to break it up, the teacher’s assistant pushed him to the ground again.”
The boy’s mother said two adults restrained him against a wall. Brewer couldn’t confirm the number of people who had to hold back the student based on the body camera footage, but explained the student was resisting for a while before he calmed down.
“They’re saying, ‘Look, if you will calm down and sit down, I’ll let you go.’ And he’s saying, ‘nope,’ and is resisting and resisting them. He’s screaming, … ‘I want my hat back,’” Brewer said. “They’re like, ‘Hey, sit down, calm down, we’ll give you your hat back.’ It’s just total back-and-forth resistance the whole time until they get him to calm down.”
On Sept. 16, Brown was suspended without pay. She resigned about a week later, the day the warrant was served. On Oct. 1, the middle school posted a job opening on Facebook for her role with exceptional children.
Brown worked for the school system for a little over a year. Originally hired as a teaching aid in August 2020, she was promoted to a teacher’s assistant for exceptional children in August 2021, earning $2,343 per month. She has no record of prior suspensions.
Asked for comment, New Hanover County Schools did not address a series of inquiries but provided the following statement:
“New Hanover County Schools is committed to ensuring a safe learning environment for all students. NHCS takes these allegations very seriously and is fully cooperating with law enforcement regarding the investigation. The school district will continue to closely monitor the situation and will take all appropriate actions necessary to protect our students.”
Reached by phone Thursday, Brown declined to comment.
In 2019 Myrtle Grove Middle also made headlines with the arrest of another special needs teaching assistant, Nicholas Lavon Oates. Oates had a history of alleged violent sexual acts prior to being hired into the system.
Oates died in jail while awaiting trial for charges of statutory rape and indecent liberties with a 13-year-old student. The sheriff’s office investigated Oates while he was still employed but never filed charges because the victim reportedly declined to participate. He was charged a year and a half after he resigned. Though Oates was suspended twice without pay, he was never fired.