Substitute accused of walloping 4th-grader

A retired longtime Mesa County educator and substitute teacher for Mesa County School District 51 told investigators he did “know better” but lost his temper when he allegedly smacked a 10-year-old boy in the face with a book in front of classmates earlier this month, according to court records.

Harold Easton, 66, who worked 32 years as a teacher or principal in District 51 and more recently as a substitute teacher at Chatfield Elementary, was served with a summons on Tuesday charging him with child abuse and third-degree assault following a Mesa County Sheriff’s Department investigation into an incident Oct. 4, in a classroom at Chatfield Elementary.

Court records allege Easton admitted hitting a 10-year-old boy in the side of his face — wielding a “teacher’s manual” in his hand ­— after two challenging days of substitute teaching at Chatfield. Easton told a deputy he was “very embarrassed.”

“Harry said he did this out of frustration because the children in this class would not listen or quiet down,” a deputy wrote in a case report. “Harry said he was getting tired of telling them to be quiet and pay attention to him. Harry said he felt very bad for losing his temper. Harry said he asked the child several times for the remainder of the day if he was okay. Harry said the child said he was okay.”

Easton allegedly told a deputy he “did know better,” being a former principal at an elementary school for 16 years.

Easton taught in District 51 from 1973 to 1989, working at the former Fruita Elementary School, Shelledy and Tope, according to District 51 spokeswoman Christy McGee. Easton was principal at Broadway Elementary for 16 years, before retiring in 2005, McGee said. He also lectured prospective teachers at Colorado Mesa University through the spring of 2012, according to CMU spokeswoman Dana Nunn.

McGee said Easton has been substitute teaching off and on in District 51 from 2006 and 2009, before returning this year.

McGee called the allegations against Easton “atrocious.”

“When we hear about incidents like what occurred here, we immediately remove staff from contact with children,” she said. “In no way is this appropriate behavior.”

Certified substitute teachers are paid $99 for each day in the classroom, she said.

Reached for comment by The Daily Sentinel, Easton said, “It was just my patience. I lost my cool.”

“My apologies to the bereaved,” Easton said. “I certainly didn’t mean to do that. But when a substitute comes into a classroom, they don’t know anybody, can’t build a rapport with the kids and you’re kind of out there on your own. When you get an unruly class, it’s difficult to get that under control.”

‘Swung with force’

The mother of the alleged victim, a fourth-grader, told sheriff’s investigators she was met the afternoon of Oct. 4 by a pair of Chatfield teachers, who informed her son had been struck in the face by a substitute teacher during class, according to a sheriff’s department case report.

Photos of red marks on the boy’s face were booked into evidence at the sheriff’s department.

The report said a girl in the class told deputies the alleged victim was talking with another girl, when the teacher, “came up and hit him with a binder.” The teacher was heard telling a group of students to “stop,” just before a loud thud was heard.

“Afterwards,” a witness explained, “(boy) sat there with his head down crying for almost two minutes. The teacher came to him and asked him if he was alright. He said, “Uh huh.”

The class continued on with writing and math.

Another witness to the incident said after hitting the child, the teacher told him, “Ha, ha that’s what you get for talking,” according to the report.

“I repeated back to (witness) the teacher had told him ‘Ha, ha that’s what you get for talking.’” (Witness) said yes and then the whole class started smiling and laughing at him.”
The alleged victim told deputies he was hit with a “reading book,” pointing to the right side of his upper cheek and ear. Witnesses said the teacher swung the book, “with both hands.”

“(Boy) said ... he couldn’t hear out of his ear for about two minutes,” the report said. “(Boy) said he then put his head down and started crying and minding his own business.”

He went on to explain his ear “felt fine now.”

After the blow, a second student in the case reported being threatened by the teacher, who asked a boy if he “wanted it,” too.

“I was informed,” a deputy wrote, “this class has approximately 28 students in it, who all could be witnesses in this incident.”

The children witnesses identified the specific book allegedly used. It was described as 11-by-11 inches, about an inch thick and weighing approximately 2 pounds.

“The book is a Grad 4 Unit 2 Teachers Edition Treasures book,” the report said.

When asked to describe the alleged assault, students demonstrated the book taken back over the right shoulder, and swung to the left.

“They swung in a manner which made it appear the book was swung with force,” a deputy wrote.

Different schools, children

McGee said there’s no history of prior complaints against Easton in terms of interaction with students.

“I have never touched a child before in that way that could be considered child abuse,” Easton told the Sentinel on Tuesday.

Easton said he has no interest in stepping into a classroom again.

“After that happened, I realized I don’t have the patience anymore for the new style kids we have,” he said. “If you’re at a Chatfield, Rocky Mountain or Clifton, those children have a much different lifestyle than a kid that goes to school at Broadway or Wingate.”

Easton said he sees correlation between socio-economic status in the Grand Valley and more disruptive classrooms.

“It’s really different when you get a school with 80 percent free and reduced lunch,” he said. “They (Chatfield incident) were a very difficult class. I’m not saying (my actions) are forgivable. But the class was unruly and difficult to manage. They were constantly talking and making noise.”

Asked if it’s ever okay to hit a child to impose order in the classroom, Easton emphatically said, “Absolutely not.”

In a slice of what Easton described as “irony,” he said some of the classes he once taught at CMU were aimed at showing teachers, “how to be patient and build rapport with students.”

“When you get older like I am, patience isn’t as strong as it used to be,” he said.


COMMENTS

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I left teaching nearly 27 years ago because, admittedly, I couldn’t handle the classroom.  While Easton’s actions are egregious and inexcusable, I commend him for realizing that they were wrong and that his substituting days have ended.  There are some who wouldn’t have such insight.

PART 1. I am acquainted with Harry Easton. He’s a good man. I’m sorry to see him feel a need to genuflect to “the system” in what sounds like an entirely understandable situation.
This tragic story is also educational in that it eloquently demonstrates a huge part of what went wrong with American public “education”: teachers are no longer allowed to control their classrooms.
Humans have sufficient intelligence that, by the time they graduate from high school, every kid should know what a hedgefund manager knows about how to keep wannabe-clever elitists from stealing his (or her) labor. But corporation-owned “gubmint” doesn’t want educated citizens capable of independent thought. As a result, the labor of the productive classes is stolen by Lex-Luthorian global monetary oligarchs — and a constitutionally ineligible man (whose deceased father was a British subject) usurped the office of President despite Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162 (1874).
In 1957, when I was attending 7th grade at GJ Junior High located at 9th & Gunnison (where East Middle School is now), we had the old-fashioned flip-up type desks with ink wells and fold-up seats. We actually used to practice penmanship using pens with nibs we would dip into the inkwells.
One day our teacher, an obese woman named Mrs. Wallace, to whom the kids all referred as “Mrs. Walrus”, sneaked up behind me and knocked me out of the desk and onto the floor by hitting me in the side of the head with a big geography book. I actually saw stars. She thought I had been talking in class, when the guilty party was actually Tex Tolman, the kid sitting in front of me. (Hopefully Tex won’t mind me sharing the story.)
Some of the more rowdy boys would have squirt-gun and rubber-band fights behind Mrs. Wallace’s back when she was writing on the blackboard. When caught, squirt guns were automatically stomped to pieces by “Walrus”, who used to punish rubber band wielders by having the miscreant come to the front of the class and get snapped on the back of the hand with a huge rubber band wielded by “Walrus”. Tex got caught so often the teacher would snap him on the side of his neck where it was tender, just trying to get the message across. It was kind of an exciting test-of-bravery game boys would play, sort of like running the bulls in Spain.
It is the height of idiocy, unproductivity, intellectual dishonesty and systemic scumbaggery to arrest parents or bring charges against teachers for using corporal punishment to control kids, then, when the unruly kid has been allowed to grow into a scary 800-lb gorilla in prison, put a shock belt on him and give the remote controller to some misandristic 120-lb female prison guard.

PART 2. Tex and I both seemed to have turned out not too much the worse for the wear. The old pre-theraputic-society ways were better. More kids got an actual education. There was less illiteracy.
When I was a kid, if you got a spanking at school (kind of a badge of machismo), you didn’t dare tell your parents about it, because you would get a worse spanking at home. Most parents supported teachers in those days. Since then, far too many parents have abrogated their parental responsibilities and allowed government to engage in social engineering and dictate how children should be raised and what they should think. As a direct result, America has become a society of uneducated, out-of-control, self-absorbed wussies who believe they are entitled to steal the “other guy’s” labor via voting and taxation. It’s the fall of the Roman Empire all over again. Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And the children don’t benefit from the “liberal” lunacy, they just have their labor stolen in ways so complex and subtle they can’t see it.
The best teacher I ever had was my 9th grade English teacher, Mona Rice. Everyday, we had to work on diagramming sentences and copying our own English grammar texts into a spiral notebook. The worst kid in class got a D-. All the kids learned at least a modicum of English grammar. No child was “left behind” in Mrs. Rice’s classes.
Coming right before a school board election, the timing of this story couldn’t be more opportune. I would hope that some of the candidates might stumble across my comments and be reminded of times when public “education” was not an oxymoron.
God bless Harry Easton. To hell with the clueless, politically-correct social engineers who charged him with “child abuse”, thus enabling parental irresponsibility and unruliness in kids at school.
As comedian Dennis Miller said (see http://bit.ly/caahcJ), “I’ve had it up to here [gesturing toward his neck] with this PC (expletive). Of course that’s just one man’s opinion, and I could be wrong.

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