Teacher sentenced for assaulting special ed students

Associated Press

Port Huron — A judge in Port Huron sentenced a former special education teacher to jail time Thursday for assault and battery of early childhood students in her classroom.

Shirley Thoen, 59, apologized in district court for the incidents that police secretly recorded at Thomas Edison Elementary, The Times Herald of Port Huron reported.

“I lost my patience and let the frustrations of the classroom situation get the best of me,” Thoen said. “I should never have allowed myself to lose my patience with the children.”

According to the newspaper, a police report said cameras authorities placed in the classroom recorded Thoen stepping on a child’s hand, pushing a student down onto a rug, stepping on a student’s leg or foot, and dropping a child and then kicking him in the head and neck area.

Thoen worked with about eight children between the ages of 4 and 6, according to the newspaper.

Judge John Monaghan sentenced her to 93 days in jail, with 73 days suspended once she completes probation. Thoen cannot volunteer or work in settings where she would have direct contact with children.

Last fall, paraprofessionals told school officials of inappropriate behavior in Thoen’s classroom, and police set up surveillance equipment. Video captured Thoen dropping the one child and kicking him on Oct. 29 and the teacher was put on leave the next day.

Thoen of Marysville retired after pleading guilty in December to two counts of assault and battery. She had been with the district 36 years.

The mother of one of the children assaulted told the court Thursday her son displayed an aversion to school, but couldn’t express it verbally.

“I never got to know my child was hurting all of those months,” Lindsay Schneider said. “I kept him in an environment that I assumed was safe because people around me — principals, administrators and the defendant herself — gave me a false sense of security.”