A special education teacher in Cobb County, Georgia has been accused of putting a student with autism into a trash can. Not only did she place the child in the trash can, but she also compared him to Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street.
The teacher’s name is Mary Katherine Pursley and according to WTSP, the warrant was issued by Cobb Schools Police who charged her with cruelty to children.
Pursley reportedly held the second grade boy, who has not been named, upside-down by his legs above a trash can, per an employee at Mt. Bethel Elementary School. The witness said that they saw Pursley then lower the child into the trash can up to his shoulders.
The incident happened during the after-school program at Mt. Bethel.
My Fox Atlanta reported that the student with autism came in from outside and was with another student who was bothering him. The police warrant states that the child was “screaming and wouldn’t calm down.”
It was at this point that Pursley, who was not assigned to the after-school program, came inside and began telling the boy about Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. She said that “if he had trashy behavior like Oscar, he’d go in the trash can.”
At this point, Pursley picked up the boy, held him upside-down over a trash can, and then lowered him into it. The young boy was yelling and crying and repeatedly asking the teacher to “stop” what she was doing.
Three people witnessed the incident, including the director of the after-schools program and two paraprofessionals. They are all employees at Mt. Bethel Elementary School. One of the witnesses confronted Pursley to stop what she was doing and contacted higher-ups.
On Monday, Mary Katherine Pursley was arrested and placed in a Cobb County, Georgia jail where she has since bonded out. She is now facing charges of cruelty to children in the first degree.
Mt. Bethel has released a statement on the incident, saying that it is a personnel matter under investigation and no further comment can be given. They are focused on the safety of the children and make it their top priority.
Mary Katherine Pursley has been with the district for 21 years, but she is currently on paid administrative leave during the investigation. The situation of her holding a child with autism in a trash can and comparing him to Oscar the Grouch will be deeply looked at and investigated, before a decision on her return is made.
[Image via My Fox Atlanta]