The onetime Roseville School District grade school teacher accused in a lawsuit of segregating and assaulting Black students last fall had a string of other disciplinary encounters with children over several years leading up to her forced resignation, records revealed.
The last of at least seven documented physical incidents while Geraldine A. Cook was a teacher at Harambee Elementary School in Maplewood occurred early in the 2019-20 school year and led to her surrendering her teaching license and resigning under pressure, according to an order she signed in July along with the head of the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board.
The latest disclosures come a week after Cook, who is white, and the Roseville School District were named as defendants in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by a parent who alleged that her second-grade son, who is Black, was assaulted by the longtime educator.
At least four of the incidents dating to 2015 were investigated by Maplewood police, with no charges filed, a police spokeswoman said.
Numerous messages have been left this week with Cook and her attorney seeking a response to the allegations. When asked about the former teacher's rocky history at Harambee, district spokesman Joshua Collins declined to comment.
Education Minnesota, which provided Cook with legal representation, said she "did not dispute the factual allegations set forth in the order." Chris Williams, spokesman for the union, said it could not comment further without Cook's permission.
The licensing board document signed in July — called a stipulation agreement and consent order — allowed the 56-year-old educator to turn in her teaching license in lieu of having it revoked or suspended and agreeing to never apply for reinstatement as a teacher in Minnesota.
Along with revealing physical clashes Cook was accused of having with students from April 2015 to January 2018, the order sheds more light on encounters she had with Black students in October 2019 that led to the lawsuit.
The suit filed by parent Kirsten Lindsey said Cook choked her son, who has learning disabilities, and forced her to move him to a new district. The suit also said Cook assaulted two other Black students in the class.
About that same time, the order revealed, Cook pushed a student "into a wall with both of her hands, causing the student to hit his head on the way and become dizzy."
The district placed Cook on paid administrative leave and opened an investigation, the order added. In late October, she was told to resign or risk being fired. She chose to resign in early December.
In the state teaching board order, Cook allegedly:
• Placed her hands on students in April 2015 and yelled at them "in anger or frustration." She received a warning.
• Placed her hands on a student's shoulders in July 2015 and moved the child away from a drinking fountain. She received a written warning.
• Grabbed a student's arm during a field trip in July 2016, causing the child to fall. She was placed on paid leave for a week.
• Tapped a student on the head with a stack of papers in July 2017. She received a written warning.
• Placed her hands on a student in October 2017 in violation of previous warnings. The district gave her an "advance notice of disciplinary action."
• Placed her hands on a student in January 2018 and moved the child into a bus seat. She received a written warning.
The lawsuit contended Cook was particularly frustrated when dealing with the handful of Black children in her class. According to the suit, she once told Lindsey she was struggling with that "particular group of students" and then made a gesture toward the Black students, who were forced to sit apart in one portion of the classroom.
After school one day in October, a girl in Cook's class came home with a torn shirt and told her mother that the teacher ripped it while pulling on her arm.
Less than a week later, another Black child in Cook's class said his teacher assaulted him and "doesn't like Black kids," the suit quoted the child as saying. The child added that Cook had "smooshed the faces" of the Black children in her class, and pushed, shoved and grabbed them.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482