Special ed teacher arrested for 'putting autistic second-grader head-first into trash can and calling him Oscar the Grouch'

  • Mary Katherine Pursley, 45, charged with cruelty to children Monday
  • Police say she claimed she was trying to calm the autistic child
  • Said the second-grader would go in the trash can 'if he had trashy behavior like Oscar the Grouch for Sesame Street'
  • Then held him head-first in the trash for a short time
  • Pursley, a teacher of 21 years, was suspended with pay 

A Georgia teacher with 21 years experience was arrested Monday after she allegedly put a student in a trash can.

Mary Katherine Pursley, 45, a teacher at Mt. Bethel Elementary in Marietta, faces a first degree felony charge of cruelty to children for causing excessive physical or mental pain.

According to Pursley's arrest warrant, a second-grade student with autism became 'angry and upset' and started screaming, not wanting to return to class.

Pursley then allegedly threatened the boy, saying 'if he had trashy behavior like Oscar (the Grouch), he’d go to the trash can', The Marietta Daily Journal reported.

Charged: Mary Pursley, 45, a teacher at Mt. Bethel Elementary in Marietta, Georgia, was attempting to calm a child during an after-school program Thursday afternoon, but instead put him in a trash can, police said

Charged: Mary Pursley, 45, a teacher at Mt. Bethel Elementary in Marietta, Georgia, was attempting to calm a child during an after-school program Thursday afternoon, but instead put him in a trash can, police said

When the child continued, Pursley allegedly picked him up and held him upside down by his ankles. 

She then allegedly lowered him head-first into a trash can.

The boy was held there for a short time, police said.

He was screaming for Pursley to stop and crying, according to the warrant.

She then set the boy down on the floor. 

There were three adults who witnessed the incident, all of whom work at the school.

Investigation: Pursley was suspended with pay as the incident at Mt. Bethel Elementary in Marietta last Thursday is investigated 

There were also other students with special needs nearby.

Pursley, of Atlanta, was arrested and charged on Monday.

She was then released early Tuesday after posting $5,000 bond.

Pursley, who has been with the school district for 21 years, is on administrative leave with pay while the matter is investigated.

She is paid $68,230 a year, according to records.