Former teacher faces prison for tying up disabled students

Associated Press

NAPLES — A former special education teacher could face up to 30 years in prison on charges that she tied two elementary school students with learning disabilities to chairs in her classroom.

Instead of facing the two less serious child abuse charges she was arrested on in May, former elementary school teacher Edwina Szempruch pleaded innocent Friday to aggravated child abuse charges.

Szempruch, 44, resigned a year ago as a pre-kindergarten teacher of students with learning disabilities at Avalon Elementary School. The trial is set for Jan. 16 in Collier County Circuit Court.

On Nov. 5, 2002, authorities say she tied up one male student to his chair with a jump rope and another with an apron. One of the youngsters fell backward and was left on the floor, according to a report written by school district investigator Peter DeBaun.

Then the next day, Nov. 6, she tied up both male students again with string, and put tape on one child’s mouth, the report said. He cried and pulled off the tape, but Szempruch put the tape back on, the report says.

The incidents were confirmed by other adults, DeBaun wrote.

Prosecutor Steve Maresca, who’s handling the case, said Monday that prosecutors increased the charges after an investigation uncovered more serious allegations.

Szempruch’s attorney, Robert J. Coleman did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment on the case Tuesday.