North aide charged with mistreating special ed student


photoA North Elementary School education assistant is facing criminal charges for allegedly mistreating a special education student.

Carolyn Joy Burke, 41, Princeton, has already served a 10-day suspension from her employment with the school district following a school district investigation last fall. Burke has since returned to work.

She was charged in Mille Lacs County District Court last week with the malicious punishment of a child, a gross misdemeanor. Burke is scheduled to make her first appearance in court at 9:30 a.m. April 16 before Judge Steven Anderson.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Mille Lacs County District Court, Burke allegedly dragged a fourth-grade special education student into a classroom by his feet, causing rug burns on the child’s back. Burke told a school district investigator that she wanted to go to lunch and had become frustrated with the student’s alleged refusal to comply with her directions, the complaint states. Court records describe the child as developmentally cognitively delayed and having trouble communicating.

The Princeton Police Department was notified of the alleged maltreatment by the Minnesota Department of Education on Oct. 19, 2012. Officer Eric Minks took the initial complaint. The investigation was conducted by Investigator Todd Fredericks.

The investigation showed that the incident had been reported to North Elementary School Principal John Beach by a witness to the alleged abuse. The child’s parents took photos of the alleged rug burns, and those photos were shared with an investigator from the Minnesota Department of Education, the complaint states.

One witness, a substitute teacher, told investigators she was sitting at a desk in the back of a North Elementary classroom while students watched a movie. The teacher told investigators that she observed Burke drag the student into the classroom by his feet. Burke allegedly told the teacher that the child was not cooperating and needed to be in the classroom. The teacher observed a bruise on the child, the complaint states.

A second witness stated that she was in the school nurse’s office when the child was brought in for treatment.

A third witness stated that she worked with the student on a regular basis. Even though the child has difficulty communicating, he allegedly mentioned to the witness on two occasions that Burke hurt him, the complaint states.

A fourth witness stated that she was the one who brought the child to the school office.

Following the police investigation, an officer called Burke in an attempt to discuss the matter with her. The call was returned by an attorney. Police department officials stated they made multiple calls to the attorney in an effort to try to get a statement from Burke. After about three weeks, a return call was received from the attorney stating that Burke would not be making a statement, the complaint alleges.

Criminal charges were filed on March 27.