A substitute teacher at a Bloomington elementary school is accused of angrily grabbing students, including dragging one child by the hair as part of a profanity-laced tirade that left some of the children sobbing.

Laura K. Avery, 59, of Bloomington, was charged in Hennepin County District Court on Thursday with malicious punishment of a child, a gross misdemeanor. Avery also was charged with witness tampering, a misdemeanor.

Avery, a substitute at Oak Grove Elementary who's been teaching for more than 25 years, has denied the accusations of abuse, the criminal complaint read. School officials have removed her from her teaching duties as the case moves forward.

On Dec. 14, a day after the alleged abuse, the Oak Grove principal said in a letter sent to the families of all the students that he was alerting them to the incident because it "has created a buzz among students and our school community."

"The school social worker and school psychologist spoke to our fifth-grade classrooms about school safety and the importance of a routine," the letter continued. "In light of the tragic situation in Connecticut, it is important to reassure our students that school is a safe place to learn."

According to the complaint:

Avery was substitute teaching fifth-graders, when school personnel came upon four children crying in the hall. They said Avery had been swearing at them and physically assaulted them.

At one point, the children continued, Avery told the students that "she was tired of this [expletive] crap," referring to their behavior.

One student was grabbed by the neck and dragged from the classroom by the hair. Another also was grabbed by the neck and slapped on the shoulder. A boy said Avery pulled on his arm and he heard his limb "pop." Another boy was pulled by his arm or shoulder and reported that it hurt.

The district said Avery has been employed there since 2003. She's had a teaching license in Minnesota since 1986.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482