Teacher accused of assaulting special needs students

CRAMERTON, N.C. — Authorities arrested a North Carolina elementary school teacher on suspicion of assaulting a child with disabilities by using hands and objects, police in Cramerton, North Carolina, confirmed on Monday.

Penny Barker, a 42-year-old special needs teacher at McAdenville Elementary School, has been suspended with pay since Jan. 24. She is facing two counts of assault on a child under 12 years of age and two counts of assault on a handicapped person.

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She is due in court on April 3.

Warrants showed that Barker allegedly grabbed a 6-year-old boy by the ears and picked him up off the ground, which caused cuts. The warrants also allege she squeezed a cold, soaked stuffed animal over the head of a 5-year-old child, causing the water to fall onto the child's body.

The alleged crimes occurred between Oct. 1, 2016 and Feb. 4, police said.

Parents told WSOCTV that they planned with school leaders Tuesday morning. Several parents said they were notified about the arrest through media reports, and not through the school.

"The kids as it is don't have a voice and us as their parents, we have to be their voice," said Christopher Jennings, a parent of children with disabilities at McAdenville Elementary. "It is absolutely sickening."

Parents are calling for more transparency at the school and are worried there potentially could be more victims.

"Our kids with disabilities should not be treated any differently than a normal child," Amber Jennings said. "You need to realize if you're going to take on a position and be a special needs teacher you have to understand the children you're going to be dealing with on a daily basis."

Barker was released from the Gaston County Jail and after being placed under a $10,000 secured bond.