Teacher pleads no contest to hitting 10-year-old

A retired educator and substitute teacher in Mesa County schools pleaded no contest to a reduced charged stemming from an incident in October when he smacked a 10-year-old boy in the face with a book in front of classmates.

Harold Easton, 66, a teacher or administrator in School District 51 for 32 years, entered his plea Friday morning to a single count of reckless endangerment, a class 3 misdemeanor. The District Attorney’s Office dismissed the original, more serious charges of child abuse and third-degree assault.

He’ll be sentenced Feb. 14. County Court Judge Craig Henderson could impose a maximum possible $750 fine and up to six months in the Mesa County Jail.

In statements to Mesa County Sheriff’s deputies and The Daily Sentinel, Easton said he did “know better” but lost his temper while substitute teaching Oct. 4 at Chatfield Elementary. He said he was “very embarrassed” about smacking a fourth-grade boy in the face with an inch-thick teacher’s instructional book.

Easton told deputies the child victim was among a group of disruptive students who wouldn’t quiet down on Oct. 4 at Chatfield, according to an incident report. One witness said other students started laughing at the boy after he’d been struck by Easton, and the boy put his head down on his desk and started crying.

Easton was apologetic in an interview with the Sentinel.

“I certainly didn’t mean to do that,” he said. “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.”

Easton was principal at Broadway Elementary for 16 years before retiring in 2005. More recently, he was lecturing prospective teachers at Colorado Mesa University while also substitute teaching in District 51.

In what Easton described as a slice of irony, he said he once instructed his CMU students on topics like, “How to be patient and build rapport with students.”

Easton said he will not continue substitute teaching.


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