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5 at Berkshires special needs school charged with abuse

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Five staffers at the Eagleton School in Great Barrington were arrested after a search of the school Saturday.Gillian Jones

Four men and a woman were arrested in connection with an investigation into allegations of physical and emotional abuse of students at Eagleton School, a private special needs school for boys and young men in Great Barrington.

All five of those arrested were staffers at the school in Berkshire County in Western Massachusetts.

Brian Puntin, 47; Peter Meadow, 51; Juan Pablo Lopez-Lucas, 34; and James Swift, 54, were each charged with one count of assault and battery on a disabled person, according to a statement Sunday from the office of Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless.

The statement said Lopez-Lucas was also charged with one count of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon.

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It said Debra Davis, 41, was charged with one count of intimidation of a witness or other person and one count of obstruction of justice.

Dozens of local, state, county, and federal law enforcement officials entered the school's administrative offices on Saturday night, after obtaining a search warrant earlier in the day.

Capeless called the allegations "terrible" and vowed to "seek justice on behalf of these vulnerable victims."

The Eagleton School is a residential school for students aged 9 to 22 who have autism, Asperger syndrome, and other cognitive disabilities. It is on 40 acres in the Berkshire Mountains.

About 50 members of local and State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department and a regional law enforcement task force took part in the search, according to Capeless.

Although residential buildings were not searched, representatives from the state Department of Early Education and Care were present to ensure the safety of students, Capeless said.

The search warrant was obtained after investigators developed probable cause that school employees may have abused students, said David Procopio, a spokesman for the State Police.

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Those arrested have been released on personal recognizance and will be arraigned in Greater Barrington District Court on Monday morning, according to the office's statement.


Ella Torres can be reached at sara.torres@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Ella_RTorres. Steve Annear can be reached atsteve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.