Special Ed Teacher Pleads Guilty to Assault Charges
Shirley Thoen, a 59-year-old early childhood special education teacher in Port Huron is said to have abused a child in her care. She recently pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery, which will likely earn her a few months in jail.Thoen, who has been with the school district for 36 years, was a teacher at Thomas Edison Elementary School, where she taught special education classes for pre-kindergarten children. But if her teaching record is any indicator, this is not the first time Thoen has been under suspicion for mishandling the children in her classes.
The St. Clair County Sheriff Department was notified in late September of an incident in which Thoen was alleged to have dropped a child on the floor and then kicked the child twice. An allegation that Thoen flatly denied at the time.
A detective with the Sheriff’s department interviewed the two paraprofessionals who work with Thoen in her class about what had happened. Both claimed that there had been what they called “inappropriate verbal and physical interactions” between Thoen and the children in her class. And according to them both, this wasn’t the first time they had raised concerns with authorities.
Both paraprofessionals had apparently reported incidents to the school authorities earlier in the school year, and had been told to document their concerns in a journal. Instances of inappropriate interactions included Thoen restraining students with her feet, splashing water on a student’s face as punishment, stepping on student’s fingers when they were not doing as they were told, and dragging one student out of the bathroom when his pants and underwear were not pulled up.
As a result of the accusations, detectives were able to get a warrant that allowed them to install a hidden cameras in Thoen’s classroom in early October. And the video captured supported the paraprofessionals’ concerns. The footage showed Thoen intentionally stepping on a child’s hand, kneeing a child in the head, stepping on a child’s knee, and pushing a child onto the rug.
Another factor that detectives took into account was the fact that this is not the first time Thoen has been investigated for allegations of abuse. In 2014 she was placed under investigation following years of “highly aggressive” behavior with children. She was alleged to have used a “correction chair”, which is no longer considered to be an acceptable form of punishment, and was also seen screaming at and hitting children.
The detective who investigated that particular case requested that he be allowed to place a hidden camera in Thoen’s classroom, but was denied on the grounds that it violated school policy. The investigation was closed without any criminal charges being pursued.
Under Michigan law, misdemeanor assault and battery is punishable by 93 days in jail, and a fine of no more than $500.