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The Lawrence School in Waukesha closing for 'foreseeable future' following child abuse investigation

Police say four staff members were taken into custody.
The Lawrence School
The Lawrence School
Posted at 12:19 PM, Sep 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-15 10:16:03-04

WAUKESHA, Wis. — The Lawrence School, a private school in Waukesha, will be closed for the "foreseeable future" following a criminal investigation regarding an allegation of physical abuse at the school.

The Waukesha Police Department confirmed earlier Wednesday it was at the Lawrence School reuniting kids with their parents as the City of Waukesha conducts the investigation. According to the Waukesha Police department, at this point in the investigation, officials "have not found any elements of a crime of sexual abuse."

Police say four staff members were taken into custody. Three of the members were booked and released with potential charges of failure to protect. The charges are being referred to the District Attorney's Office.

One staff member was arrested and transported to the Waukesha County Jail with charges of physical abuse of a child being referred to the District Attorney's Office.

In an update Wednesday evening, the School District of Waukesha said it is working on a plan to accommodate the four-year-old kindergarten students who attended the Lawrence School to other available elementary school locations within the district. Students at the Lawrence School are served only by Lawrence staff and are not part of the School District of Waukesha. The school district said it is immediately ending its relationship with the Lawrence School as a 4K partner site.

"We are shocked and saddened by the reports from the Waukesha Police Department regarding the investigation of physical abuse at the Lawrence School," the School District of Waukesha said in a statement. "We are committed to working with our families to find a new four year old kindergarten placement for their children as soon as practicable."

The Lawrence School
Police near The Lawrence School on Wednesday.

According to Waukesha police, the school was operating at over 150% capacity, which is regulated by the State of Wisconsin.

The school district said it was alerted around 9 a.m. Wednesday that Waukesha police would execute a warrant at Lawrence. The School Resource Officer from Waukesha West alerted the West High School, which is nearby.

A large police presence was seen outside the school Wednesday morning. TMJ4 News reached out to the police who said all children are safe at this time.

Captain Dan Baumann with the police department said the reunification process is taking longer than expected primarily because the student population is infants-toddlers. Baumann said they want to be sure they are reuniting the children with the correct family member.

"We have to be 110% accurate and who we placed that child with the only way we could do that was a methodical reunification," Baumann said. "One mitigating factor, some of the staff members that ran the systems are now in our custody relative to a criminal investigation."

Captain Dan Baumann
Captain Dan Baumann

Baumann said information about arrests and criminal referrals will come out at a later time. Right now, the primary focus of the police department is the safety of the children.

"We will work with the School District of Waukesha and release a unified message later on today. Again, the parallel investigation is ongoing so once the information has been vetted and verified we will release it so long as it doesn’t compromise the integrity of the investigation," Baumann wrote in an email to TMJ4 News.

Investigators are working with the Wisconsin Department of Child Investigations, the Waukesha County Sheriff's Office, and the Waukesha District Attorney's Office. The team is working with the reporting party and the family of the alleged child victim. Investigators were also able to communicate with family members as well as the children to find other potential victims.

Richard Walsh was one of many parents who had to pick their kids up.

"Seeing that there's possible abuse scares me. I wouldn't want that for my kid or anybody else's kid," Walsh said.

The Lawrence School
The Lawrence School

Walsh said his wife also works at the child care center.

"She's very scared. She's never dealt with anything like this. She's worked at other daycares but she's never dealt with something like this before," Walsh said.

One woman, who was driving away from the center in tears, told TMJ4 News she works at the facility and is extremely upset over the situation.

The Lawrence School describes itself as a locally owned daycare.

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