A Hennepin County District Court judge found a Bloomington Public Schools substitute teacher guilty of threatening, slapping and swearing at students in her care last December.
Laura Kirstine Avery, 60, was convicted Monday of four counts of malicious punishment of a child for incidents that occurred when she was a substitute teacher at Oak Grove Elementary School in Bloomington on Dec. 13, 2012.
A school employee discovered a group of students on that day crying and hysterical in a school hallway, according to the judge's findings. The children said Avery swore at and threatened the students in the class.
In interviews the following week with a Minnesota Department of Education investigator, students said that Avery slapped a 10-year-old girl's face, squeezed her neck and pulled her hair. Students also said Avery grabbed a 10-year-old's shoulder so hard that marks remained hours after the incident, kicked an 11-year-old boy in the shin, and grabbed another 10-year-old's neck and slapped and pushed him.
The students' parents said many of the children had nightmares after the incidents.
Avery told investigators that one of the students who alleged that Avery slapped her was an "active girl," who was causing trouble by running around instead of working. Avery said she didn't know what made the girl cry.
Avery told police that she said the word "crap" but denied saying "the f-word."
Bloomington Public Schools spokesman Rick Kaufman said officials immediately removed Avery from the classroom and that the incidents were reported to the Bloomington Police Department.
Kaufman said Avery's personnel records weren't available, but that she had worked as a substitute teacher at three elementary schools in the district in previous years.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Avery's behavior that day appears to have been an isolated case.
"Apparently, she just totally lost it," Freeman said. "That's really unfortunate because we ask our teachers, who have a very hard and difficult job, to take care of our kids, and we entrust our kids to them and they need to do better than this."
Avery chose not to exercise her right to a trial by jury. She will be sentenced sometime in the next few months.