A veteran Cobb County special education teacher is accused of putting a second-grader with autism in a trash can, saying his behavior was similar to Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street, according to school system police.
Mary Katherine Pursley, a teacher at Mt. Bethel Elementary on Johnson Ferry Road, was attempting to calm the child during an after-school program Thursday afternoon, witnesses told police.
“The accused talked with the victim about Oscar the Grouch and his ‘trashy behavior’,” Pursley’s arrest warrant states. “The accused told the victim, ‘If he had trashy behavior like Oscar, he’d go to the trash can’.”
Pursley then allegedly picked up the child by his legs, held him upside down and put him head-first into a trash can, according to police.
“Are you going to stop yelling now?” Pursley asked the boy, witnesses said.
The boy was crying, screaming and yelling “stop” while being held by Pursley, the arrest warrant states. She then set the boy down on the floor. The incident was witnessed by two paraprofessionals and the school after-school director. Other students in the classroom also witnessed Pursley’s actions, according to police.
Pursley, 45, of Atlanta, was arrested Monday night and charged with cruelty to children in the first degree, Cobb County jail records showed. She was released early Tuesday after posting $5,000 bond.
Pursley, who has been with the school district for 21 years, is on administrative leave with pay while the matter is under review, a spokeswoman for the school system said.