A longtime substitute teacher was found guilty Monday of maliciously punishing students at a Bloomington elementary school, where authorities say she kicked a fifth-grade student in the shin and slapped another in the face.
Laura Kirstine Avery, 60, was found guilty on four charges by Hennepin County District Judge Lyonel Norris. She was acquitted on a charge of tampering with a witness.
According to the charges, a Bloomington school employee found four students crying in the hallway at Oak Grove Elementary on Dec. 13, 2012.
The students told her that Avery swore at them in the classroom and threatened to slap them if they didn't do what she asked.
Prosecutors determined that Avery later took three students to a school "quiet" room, grabbing one student by the shoulder so hard that a school nurse observed redness on the boy. Another student told state investigators that Avery grabbed his neck and pushed him into the room.
In a separate incident, a girl told investigators that Avery slapped her face, pulled her hair and grabbed her around the neck so tightly that it was difficult to breathe. A 10-year-old boy told investigators that Avery kicked him in the shin on the way to recess. A school nurse documented a bruise on the boy's shin where he said Avery kicked him.
Other students corroborated the four students' version of events, according to the charges.
Avery later admitted to investigators that the students "made a big deal of the names she called them … [that they] hate it when [she doesn't] know their names." She admitted she did say "crap" and "this is garbage" but denied using one obscenity the students claimed she uttered.
The students' parents told police that their children continue to have nightmares about the incidents months after the abuse was reported.
Bloomington school officials said they removed Avery from the classroom as soon as they became aware of the incident and notified the Minnesota Department of Education. She started doing substitute teaching for the district in 2003.
"She was removed from the substitute rolls and will never be contacted by our district again," said Rick Kaufman, a Bloomington schools spokesman.
Records show that Avery received her teaching license in 1986. As of Monday, that license was still active. Phone calls to the state Board of Teaching were not immediately returned.