Teacher Testifies She Didn't Choke First-Graders

9 students accuse teacher of hurting them

By Chris Gordon
|  Thursday, Oct 20, 2011  |  Updated 7:58 PM EDT
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A Montgomery County teacher accused of choking, scratching, and forcefully grabbing her first grade students took the witness stand to defend herself against second-degree assault charges.

Chris Gordon

A Montgomery County teacher accused of choking, scratching, and forcefully grabbing her first grade students took the witness stand to defend herself against second-degree assault charges.

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In Montgomery County Circuit Court Thursday, a first-grade teacher denied ever choking any of her students at Greencastle Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md.

Five of the 16 students in Susan Burke’s class testified that she either choked, grabbed, pinched or scratched them, hurting them.

Burke never intended punitive contact, she testified. When her students misbehaved, fought or disrupted class, she would physically redirect them to a corner of her portable classroom to talk to them. Sometimes she grabbed them by the wrist, she said, and sometimes the students got angry.

Using her lawyer, Burke demonstrated how she would put her hands on a child’s shoulders. She described the force she used as light.

Earlier in the trial, a parent testified that Burke squeezed the back of her son’s neck hard. Burke denied the allegation Thursday. She also denied choking a student and scratching a student.

Prosecutors called five rebuttal witnesses -- supervisors and coworkers who said that, in their opinions, Susan Burke is not always truthful.

Burke was suspended in January, after several students made the accusations. In February, she was charged with nine counts of second-degree assault.

The case could go to the jury Friday.

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