South Carolina Teacher Charged With Murder After Special Needs Student Dies

When we send our kids off to school, we trust the adults who are paid to keep them safe to do exactly that. The apprehension we feel when placing that trust in people we don’t always know is often amplified when our kids have special needs or fail to fit in as easily as other kids do. But those adults don’t always keep our kids safe. They don’t always do their job. 

Such was the case in South Carolina only last week when a 13-year-old girl who had special needs was locked in a hot car. 

A 911 call was placed early Monday evening. The deputies who responded to the call arrived at the scene where the 13-year-old girl had been left in the car on Low Country Highway. According to the 911 call, she was not breathing. Family members had already pulled the girl out of the vehicle when authorities arrived, but it was too late. She had already succumbed to the heat.

Two people were charged with murder the next day, one a 49-year-old early childhood education teacher, Rita Pangalangan, who works at the Colleton County School District. School officials acknowledged that she was put on paid leave while an investigation into the matter is conducted. Also arrested was Larry King, a 41-year-old man.

Both Pangalangan and King were at the scene of the girl’s death, but no further information was provided as to why the pair was arrested or how they were connected to the tragic events that transpired that evening. They were denied bond on Tuesday last week.

An autopsy is being conducted. 

Students who have special needs are among the most underrepresented groups in the United States, and sustain more injuries at school than other children. Part of the problem is the result of understaffed schools. Children with special needs are more difficult to teach, and without the right training, their educators will make mistakes. Sometimes resources for properly training educators how to deal with individual disabilities or special needs simply are not available. 

Until new legislation is passed, this problem is only likely to become worse.

Was your special needs child injured during what should have been a routine education? We want to hear your story. Valiente Law is a Miami-based criminal defense law firm that also specializes in personal injury, and can help you seek justice for your child.