Five arrested in abuse investigation at Massachusetts special needs school

Story highlights

  • Some 50 law enforcement agents descended on Eagleton School in Massachusetts with a search warrant
  • All five people arrested are employees of the school, the district attorney says

(CNN)Five people are facing charges in connection with an investigation into allegations of abuse at a Massachusetts school for boys with learning disabilities, according to law enforcement officials.

All five, arrested Sunday, are employees of Eagleton School, according to the Berkshire County district attorney's office.
Details about the exact nature of the investigation or the allegations against the five individuals are limited.
    The physical and emotional abuse allegations surfaced earlier this month, according to a press release from the Great Barrington Police Department. A number of agencies, including the FBI and Massachusetts State Police, were involved in the investigation, according to the press release.
    Some 50 state, local, and federal law enforcement officials descended Saturday on Eagleton School in Great Barrington to execute a search warrant.
    According to the school's website, "Eagleton School is a private year-round residential, psycho-educational treatment facility for boys and young men with Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, Pervasive Development Disorder, Communication and Cognitive Delays, Behavior Disorders, Emotional Disorders, and Learning Disabilities." Students range in age from 9 to 22, though the average age for students is about 13. The school is located on 40 acres in the Berkshire Mountains, according to the school's website.
    The announcement of the arrests left many unanswered questions, including what evidence authorities were looking for or what they found.
    Charges filed against the five include assault and battery on a disabled person. But it was not clear from the news release whether the offenses charged are misdemeanors or felonies or a combination of both.
    A probable-cause document filed in Great Barrington District Court Monday described an incident in which one of the defendants allegedly struck a student's head against a picnic table near the equine area. Another incident describes another of the defendants allegedly kicking a student. Another defendant allegedly destroyed video evidence of an assault carried out by yet another of the defendants, according to the document.
    The alleged incidents took place on campus between last summer and early January, according to the document.
    Debra Davis, 41, one of the five arrested, told CNN, "We have been instructed not to comment at this time." Juan Pablo Lopez-Lucas, 34, told CNN Sunday that he "couldn't talk about this now." The remaining individuals arrested -- Peter Meadows, 51, James Swift, 54, and Brian Puntin, 47 -- could not be reached for comment.
    New information surfaced during arraignments Monday for the five. Puntin stated that he is the director of the school's equine program, and requested that he be permitted to check on the horses in the program despite the state's request that the five do not visit the school as a condition of their remaining free while their cases are pending. Putin's request was denied by the court.
    Officials at Eagleton School did not respond to CNN's multiple requests for comment.
    Saturday's investigation was coordinated carefully to minimize disruption to students, according to a statement from Berkshire County District Attorney David Capeless.
    "The operation was conducted with minimum presence, and reports back to me indicated that normal operations at the school were not disrupted and the students were unaware of the law enforcement presence," Capeless said in the statement.
    Representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) are also involved in the inquiry. Thomas L. Weber, the commissioner of the department, said in a statement that his agency "will take further action as warranted in response to our on-going investigation."
    "The health and well-being of the children at Eagleton School is of utmost importance to EEC," Weber said.
    The five individuals were released under the condition that they do not make contact with students of the school, or visit school grounds. They will appear in court next on March 10.