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Damian Giletto, The News Journal
The Delaware Department of Correction is investigating complaints that some of its officers repeatedly harassed a preschool teacher last Friday while she was at a park with students.
Four off-duty prison guards having a barbecue at Glasgow park for National Correctional Officer Appreciation Week allegedly called an Elkton teacher names, recorded her and blocked her car in because of where she parked.
The agency is not releasing any details until after the investigation concludes, Jayme Gravell of the DOC said in a response to The News Journal.
Amanda Hobson, owner and teacher at Imagination Station in Elkton, had seven 3- and 4-year-olds at the park on Friday morning to prepare potted plants for Mother’s Day. She parked her Jeep in a spot next to a pavilion around 8:45 a.m.
The Jeep was full of bags of soil, planters and snacks. Hobson said everything was fine until about 11 a.m. when four correctional officers arrived, three of whom were in uniform.
The guards told her she had to move her vehicle because they had rented the space for a barbecue. New Castle County confirmed the pavilion was rented by DOC officers but said the parking spots nearby were not included.
Hobson said she told them that if they watched the young children, she could park her car elsewhere, but she did not feel comfortable leaving the children unattended. They refused.
“It put me in a tough spot because there was nothing I could do to make them happy,” Hobson said.
The correctional officers reportedly began taunting and harassing her. One made a call and read out Hobson’s license plate, asking for more information on the driver. They took photos of Hobson and the kids, jeered at her and repeatedly said they were going to call police on her, the preschool teacher said.
“I felt threatened,” she said. “I was just a lady and they were trying to use their power as a correctional officer to make me move my car.”
Feeling helpless, Hobson texted a parent, Anna Willis, around 11 a.m. for backup.
Willis arrived to chaperone the kids, while the preschool teacher went to move her car for the officers. But by that time, one of the officers had pulled their car beside Hobson’s, and they placed the grill directly behind her vehicle. Hobson said they blocked in her car, saying “it was too late” for her to move, and lit the grill.
“It was very concerning that they went to that extent to bully her,” Willis said. “They were swearing in front of the children and flipped her off.”
Hobson called county police to intervene an hour later as parents began arriving to pick up the kids. The police officer directed the prison guards to move the car blocking in the teacher.
“They saw I was caring for seven children and they continued to treat me that way,” Hobson said. “They should be setting an example.”
Hobson said she won’t take the class back to Glasgow Park.
“I can’t jeopardize feeling that unsafe with seven kids again,” she said.
Contact Josephine Peterson at (302) 324-2856 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @jopeterson93.
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