Teacher who hit student gets public service
A longtime Grand Valley educator was sentenced to 50 hours of useful community service Friday stemming from an Oct. 4 incident at Chatfield Elementary School in which he admitted to hitting a fourth-grader with a book.
Harold Easton, 66, who worked as a teacher and administrator in District 51 schools for 32 years, received his sentence after pleading no contest Feb. 7 to one count of reckless endangerment, a class 3 misdemeanor.
In the Oct. 4 incident, Easton admitted to smacking the boy on the side of the face with an inch-thick teacher’s manual.
At Friday’s sentencing, Judge Craig Henderson said his only question was, “What did this child do? What was the impetus to this cuffing?”
Easton explained that he had been a substitute at the school for two days, and that on the first day a behavior coach taught the class for most of the day “to get the kids to understand what proper behaviors are, and I contributed where I could,” Easton said.
On the second day, he said, the 28 children in the class didn’t show respect for each other or him “and it got to the point where I was frustrated,” he said. “I have never, ever struck a child before, never even gave swats as a principal.”
“Mr. Easton is a kind and gentle man, respectful to everyone,” said Marna Lake, Easton’s attorney. “For decades he’s been an advocate for children. He got down on his knees (at the boy’s desk) and apologized within minutes of this happening.”
Jake Landreth, representing the District Attorney’s office, countered that Easton had been placed in a position of extreme trust and “in this one incident breached that trust.”
Before declaring Easton’s sentence, Henderson acknowledged he has a reputation of being tough on crimes against children and that he considers incarceration more in situations where people “don’t get it.”
“I have no doubt, Mr. Easton, that you’re a pillar of the community and you’ve positively affected thousands of lives,” Henderson said. “The bottom line here is Mr. Easton gets it, but I still think there needs to be some sanction.”
In addition to 50 hours of community service, Easton received a suspended seven-day jail sentence.