BAKER — Police arrested a Baker school system teacher after investigating a complaint that she choked a 6-year-old student at Bakerfield Elementary School, Police Chief Mike Knaps said Thursday.
Knaps said Mildred D. Russ, 69, 5629 N. Afton Parkway, Baton Rouge, was booked Wednesday afternoon at Parish Prison on a felony count of cruelty to a juvenile.
Russ was released on $2,500 bail.
Baker School Superintendent Ulysses Joseph said Russ did not report to the school Thursday and she would be placed on administrative leave with pay as of Friday, pending further proceedings.
Knaps said the incident occurred Monday and was witnessed by at least three adults.
The child’s mother contacted police after the principal told her what had happened.
One of the witnesses told police they saw Russ sitting on the playground with the girl standing in front of her.
Russ immobilized the child by wrapping her legs around the girl, then wrapped a sweater belonging to the girl around the student’s neck.
When the child attempted to move, Russ allegedly tightened the sweater around her neck, the witness said.
Knaps said the witness also saw Russ taking the girl to the school office by dragging her because the girl could not stand up.
The witness also said Russ jerked the girl with such force the child was pulled out of her shoes.
In the office, Russ allegedly called the student’s emergency contact person and said to either come get the child or “bring her medicine,” Knaps said.
The investigating officer, Keon Washington, said Principal Darla Lawson interviewed Russ, who gave a different version of the events and denied dragging the girl, according to Washington’s statement of his investigation.
Washington also said in his statement that one of the witnesses said Russ approached her and suggested she copy Russ’ statement in order for the two of them “to be on the same page.”
Joseph said Russ is a retired teacher who was rehired by the school system to teach at Park Ridge Elementary School, before it was converted to a magnet elementary school this year.
Russ was transferred to Bakerfield Elementary during the summer.
Russ has held a teaching certificate for elementary education since 1973, according to the state Department of Education’s certification verification website.