Catherine L. Davis
Catherine L. Davis
A former Southwestern teacher who was arrested this week on charges that she battered and neglected one of her students on Dec. 16, 2019, was in court for her initial hearing in Jefferson County Superior Court Friday.
Catherine L. Davis, 39, of Madison, a former special needs teacher at the school, was involved in an altercation with a 14-year-old female student on two separate occasions on Dec. 16 in which she is accused of head-butting the girl in a Southwestern lunchroom.
Southwestern Superintendent Jeff Bates said Davis was an employee of the Madison Area Educational Special Service Unit (MAESSU), which provided services to Southwestern schools, at the time of the incident. He said per school policy, Davis was immediately placed on paid administrative leave until the incident could be investigated. At some point during that leave, the decision was made to terminate her employment and a temporary replacement was hired to fill that position on the faculty.
Indiana State Police Detective Joe Loyd started looking into the case on Dec. 17, 2019. That investigation — based on interviews with Davis, witnesses, the victim and surveillance video — determined that Davis head-butted the student in the school cafeteria during an incident at breakfast. In the second incident, which occurred later in the day, Davis was reported to have pulled the same student onto the floor of the cafeteria after food was spilled during lunch.
At the conclusion of the initial ISP investigation, the case was submitted to the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office for review and the charges were then filed.
On Wednesday, a warrant was issued for Davis’ arrest on two counts of battery, both Level 5 felonies, and two counts of neglect of a dependent, both Level 6 felonies. Davis was taken into custody without incident on Thursday and taken to the Jefferson County Jail.
After spending Thursday night in jail, Davis appeared for her initial hearing in court Friday where she reviewed the charges before Magistrate Nancy Jacobs in about a 30-minute appearance in which Jacobs entered a not guilty plea for Davids and heard arguments from both Jefferson County Deputy Prosecutor Elizabeth Stigdon and Public Defender Della Swincher on whether Davis should have to post bail or be released on her own recognizance and on the terms of that release in either instance.
The prosecution had asked for a $10,000 bond in the case plus conditions that Davis have no contact with the victim and no contact or supervision of any other minor including her own children. Stigdon argued that despite Davis’ formal training and years of teaching special needs children, the presence of multiple witnesses and video surveillance equipment showed she was “unable or unwilling to control herself” during the incident with the student.
Swincher argued that Davis had no past criminal record, that the allegations reflected an isolated incident and that Davis has done no wrong in regard to her own children or any others in the weeks since the incident at Southwestern. She said Davis has had no contact with the student and noted that she has “medical conditions” that would make incarceration an issue in terms of her health and that a pretrial report had indicated she was a low risk for flight.
Jacobs said that while details outlined in an Affidavit of Probable Cause were “disturbing,” Davis’ lack of criminal history — especially in terms of violence to others — her low risk for flight, the fact that she had shown remorse for the incident during interviews with police and had refrained from further contact with the student, was evidence contradicting a higher bond. In terms of Davis’ ability to care for and supervise her own children, Jacobs agreed that Davis had been doing that without incident in the weeks since the incident.
In the end, Jacobs ordered Davis to be released without bond and allowed to care for and supervise her own children but have no contact with the victim or supervise any other children.
Jacobs noted “this may not be popular with public sentiment or those on social media,” but the court presumes innocence until a defendant is proven guilty, and part of that process is allowing defendants release from jail pending trial with bond relative to the risk for flight and threat to harm themselves or others, and both factors were low.
When contacted about the case Thursday, Bates declined to answer questions on behalf of the school corporation. He said a statement had been prepared and read it to The Madison Courier.
“The school corporation and the Madison Area Educational Special Service Unit conducted a thorough internal investigation at the time it learned of allegations and took all appropriate action to protect the health and welfare of its students,” Bates said, reading from a prepared statement on behalf of the school corporation. “The Southwestern Jefferson County Consolidated School Corporation does not comment on personnel matters, including matters involving former employees. Accordingly, the school corporation has no comment regarding the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s actions.”
Bates declined to say whether the student or Davis were injured in the incident. But court records gave no indication of anyone seeking medical treatment after the incidents.
MAESSU, based in Madison, provides educators and assistants for a variety of special needs programs ranging from autism spectrum to visual impairment as well as other disorders, disabilities and impairments ranging from communication disorders to emotional, mental and learning disabilities and orthopedic impairments. Other school corporations served by MAESSU include Switzerland County, Scott County District 1 and Clarksville Community.
Indiana State Police was assisted by the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southeastern Indiana, Southwestern School Corporation, Indiana Department of Child Services and the Jefferson County Prosecutor.

The name of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southeastern Indiana agency that assisted Indiana State Police in their investigation has been corrected in this story. The name was listed incorrectly in court documents.