Whitten confirmed the investigation at Louisa E. Perritt Primary School to KNWA's Matt Turner Monday morning. According to the school district's website, Perritt serves approximately 400 students in pre-K, kindergarten and first grade.
Rumors have been circulating throughout the town for weeks. Whitten said he could not discuss specifics of the case due to student privacy issues.
Whitten tells arkansasmatters.com the district found out about the incident last week. His office released the following statement dated April 27:
"The Arkadelphia School District has been working with the Department of Human Services on a matter involving students at Louisa E. Perritt Primary School. Based on preliminary information obtained on Wednesday afternoon from an ongoing DHS investigation and internal sources, the district has suspended three (3) employees at the school with a recommendation to terminate their employment contracts. A fourth employee submitted a retirement letter to the district effective April 27, 2012. These issues are considered confidential student and personnel matters. The district cannot make any further comments at this time. Our first and only priority at this time is ensuring the well being of our students, and providing them with a positive, supportive and safe learning environment."
Whitten reported DHS is continuing to investigate the matter and he has no idea what the department will discover or unveil.
On April 24th, it was announced in a news release that longtime principal of Perritt Primary Wanda O'Quinn would retire effective July 1, 2012. Whitten confirmed via telephone Sunday evening that she will no longer be finishing out the school year as planned. Her retirement took effect April 27. As of Monday morning, O'Quinn was still listed on the district's website as the school's principal.
When asked if O'Quinn's early retirement has anything to do with this case, Whitten said he could not comment.
As for the three employees who have been suspended for their role in this case, Whitten says they have 30 days to appeal the district's decision. After that, the district has the ability to terminate their employment.
(This update does not include portions of a previous version of the story that said Whitten confirmed DHS is investigating a possible case of sexual misconduct involving students. Whitten now says he never made that statement.)