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United School District obeys rule: Sends girl directly to hospital when nurse spots injuries

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

School and hospital officials followed mandated reporting procedures in the case of a 7-year-old Indiana County girl who police say was injured when her mother threw her to the floor and sat on her.

Rebecca Lynn Smith, 33, of Dilltown is charged with simple assault, endangering the welfare of children and harassment, state police said Tuesday.

Smith is accused of severely spraining her daughter's left wrist and causing a cut to her lip. The injuries were discovered last week by a school nurse for United Elementary School in Armagh. The nurse sent the girl to a hospital, state police said.

Evidence suggested that the girl had been physically abused for some time, police said.

Smith allegedly injured her daughter at 5 p.m. Thursday in a residence on Armerford Road in East Wheatfield.

Trooper John Matchik, spokesman for the Indiana barracks, said the girl complained of arm pain Friday at school. The school nurse examined the girl, who was taken by ambulance to Indiana Regional Medical Center in White, he said. Hospital personnel notified state police.

Matchik said the girl left her home on Thursday night to visit a nearby relative. Smith took her back home, where the two apparently argued, Matchik said.

“(Smith) became irate, grabbed her and threw her to the floor,” causing the lip laceration, he said. “We believe she then sat on top of the child, with the girl's hand pinned between her own body and the floor.”

United School District Superintendent Barbara Parkins said elementary school administrators handled the required reporting.

“We are mandated reporters,” she said.

State law requires various professionals — physicians, teachers, nurses, day-care workers and law enforcement officers — to report when they suspect a child under their care or supervision may be a victim of abuse.

Matchik said hospital personnel contacted police when the child arrived.

“Ultimately, it depends on the circumstances at hand,” he said. “In this case, the child was taken to a medical facility, and they contacted us with a case of substantial injury with suspected child abuse.”

The Child Protective Services Act requires mandated reporters to contact the Department of Public Welfare's ChildLine if they suspect abuse. The children and youth department in the child's county of residence is notified to investigate, according to the DPW website.

Matchik was not sure whether the girl was removed from her mother's custody.

Smith was arraigned on Friday before Blairsville District Judge Jennifer Rega and released from Indiana County Jail upon posting $10,000 bond. She faces a preliminary hearing on Wednesday before Rega.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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