A Fridley couple who punished the mother's 12-year-old daughter by shaving her head and making her wear a diaper in public were charged on Wednesday with malicious punishment of a child, a gross misdemeanor.

The girl's mother, 38, and the woman's husband, the girl's stepfather, 34, made their first court appearance on Wednesday in Anoka County. The mother was released on bail on the condition that she have no contact with the daughter. The stepfather had a small bail set because of a minor criminal history.

According to the criminal complaint, the girl said this was the third time she was placed on what she called "diaper duty." The punishment came from her mother for getting an "F" on her report card.

Monday evening, neighbors saw the girl doing wind sprints in their townhouse complex. Her head had been freshly shaved, and she was dressed in a diaper and a tank top.

A neighbor called police; when they arrived, the girl had been outside for about half an hour, officers said.

Thirty to 50 people were gathered in the area, the complaint said, and one grabbed a blanket and put it around the girl as she was escorted to a squad car.

A classmate had called her name while she was running, but the girl told him to leave her alone, the complaint said.

The couple warned the girl repeatedly that she would be placed on "diaper duty" if her grades didn't improve and she didn't listen in school, the complaint said. The mother said she didn't see what the problem was, that she was disciplining her daughter by embarrassing her, according to the complaint.

Police said on Tuesday that the girl didn't appear to have any physical injuries. The girl and the woman's three other children have been placed in foster care. None appeared to have been physically abused, police said.

Officers had responded to four calls in the past two years at the family's townhouse in the 1600 block of 68th Avenue N., police said. One of the calls triggered notification to a county child protection worker. No criminal charges were filed.

David Chanen • 612-673-4465