Susan Burke, on trial for abusing students, testifies

Susan Burke

A former Greencastle Elementary School teacher on trial for allegedly abusing students took the stand to defend herself Wednesday.

Susan Burke faces ten charges of second-degree assault and two charges of second-degree child abuse. Several former students testified in court earlier in the trial that Burke choked them when they acted up in class. The students, however, at times offered confusing and contradictory accounts of what had happened.

Burke on Wednesday testified that she touched students on their backs or elsewhere in what she said was a non-verbal way to remind them to be quiet.

She said she didn’t touch them with force. She said she would touch them in such a manner during test-taking time when she didn’t want to speak and disrupt the students.

A 7-year-old former first grader in Burke's class testified that the teacher put her hands around his neck on five different occasions, hurting him. He told the jury he was scared of Burke. The boy's mother told jurors her son had nightmares and said he didn't want to go to school.

A second boy also said that when students got in trouble, Burke would choke them with both hands. One 7-year-old boy testified that "one time she kicked me, punched me, and choked me."

On the stand, the children sometimes offered contradicting accounts. One of the boys said he was choked twice, then minutes later said happened 10 times. He claimed he never told anyone because he thought no one would believe him.

At times the boys mixed up dates, numbers, places and names. The teacher says she never touched the students inappropriately.