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GFW teacher accused of malicious punishment of a child

GIBBON — A Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) speech teacher accused of placing a six-year-old female student in a bear hug hold and dragging her down two hallways and two flights of stairs last month, faces three charges in Sibley County District Court.

Renee L. Schmidt, 50, St. Peter, was charged with gross misdemeanor malicious punishment of a child and two misdemeanor counts of 5th-degree assault Feb. 2. An initial court appearance was set for 9:45 a.m., March 11.

According to court documents, GFW School Resource Officer Aaron Hacker received a report on Jan. 21, 2021 of an incident that happened earlier in the day between Schmidt and a student at GFW Elementary School in Gibbon.

Hacker reviewed school surveillance camera footage of the incident and observed Schmidt dragging the student out of a room by her arms, then trying to lift her up by her wrists in an apparent effort to get her to stand up. The student did not stand up and continued to lay on the floor.

Schmidt put the student into a bear hug hold, placing her arm under the student’s arm, across the student’s upper chest and throat area. Schmidt then carried the student down two hallways, down two flights of stairs, and into the kindergarten room.

The student appeared panicked while being carried. Her feet were off the ground the entire time. Other staff members observed the incident and heard the child screaming she couldn’t breathe.

When asked about her conduct by another staff member, Schmidt said the student was being awful in speech and she had to carry her all the way from the motor room to the kindergarten room, down a back stairway so the principle would not see her.

Schmidt admitted the student yelled she could not breathe while she was carried, but Schmidt said it is known the student lies.

School staff members told Hacker they are trained in crisis prevention intervention that includes waiting out such an incident, calling for help, and immediately placing down a student who says they can’t breathe.

In a media statement released Feb. 3, GFW Superintendent Jeff Horton said the school district immediately notified police of the incident after it happened, placed Schmidt on administrative leave, and will continue to investigate the incident and take appropriate action.

“Educating students in a safe environment is the primary concern of the GFW Public School District, read the media statement. “Employees go through a screening process prior to their hire and receive job-specific training to support a safe and caring learning environment.”

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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