by ADN

June 24, 2015

Mary Katherine Pursley, screenshot taken from 11 Alive Atlanta news
Mary Katherine Pursley, screenshot taken from 11 Alive Atlanta news

Marietta, Georgia — A teacher accused of putting a child with autism in a trash can underwent a termination hearing Monday, after school officials decided to terminate her contract. We first reported on this story back in May and can be read here: Child with autism put in trashcan by his teacher – w/video.

Mary Katherine Pursley was arrested after witnesses said she let a student with autism at the Mount Bethel Elementary School hang over a trash can while he was having a meltdown.

Pursley was later on arrested, but was able to get out of jail on a $5,000 bail.

During the hearing, Pursley insisted that she had no malicious intent with her actions, and denied that she let the boy hang over the trash can. When she took the stand, she told her side of the story:

“Every day after school, he comes over to my room and talks to me about his day and tells me about it, and we talk about the little characters and so, we have this very close relationship.”

The day of the incident, she said she heard the boy screaming from the classroom across where she was, so she went to him and tried to see how she could help out. She said she decided to use a Sesame Street character, Oscar the Grouch, to help the boy see how he was behaving.

“I said, ‘You don’t want to act like that. You’re sort of acting like Oscar the Grouch. People see Oscar the Grouch”

She then stated that the child calmed down, “and was talking to me honestly. He’s very honest with me about his feelings.” Although he was still a little agitated, he was not shouting or screaming.

At that point, according to Pursley, the boy was allowed to go outside to play. But he started hitting his classmates so he was told to go back to his classroom, and his meltdown continued.

“I could hear him outside screaming, coming back into the building. … He was upset; he wanted to go back outside.”

She said she only decided to take action when it was evident that the boy wouldn’t stop screaming. That’s when she went over to him.

“I said, ‘I thought we were going to get rid of that grouchy behavior. So, I went over and sort of pick him up like a groom with a bride, I guess you would say, and I said, ‘We’ve got to shake out that trashy behavior.’”

The trash can in question was about one and half feet wide and three feet tall. Pursley said that because of this, it was impossible for her to dangle the boy over it as suggested by witnesses. But the school district’s lawyers argued that the trash can is still a trash can.

The tribunal will be making a recommendation in five days, but the school board isn’t expected to take up Pursley’s case in the coming board meetings until July 22.

Source: Phillip Clements on MDJ Teacher on trial: Tribunal hears case of teacher who held student over trash can

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