Mom speaks out after special needs teacher accused of assaulting handicapped child

Penny Barker (Source: Gaston County Jail)
Penny Barker (Source: Gaston County Jail)

MCADENVILLE, NC (WBTV) - A special needs teacher in Gaston County is facing charges after she is accused of assaulting a handicapped child.

According to Cramerton Police, 42-year-old Penny Barker has been charged with two counts of assault on a person under 12 years of age and two counts of assault on a handicapped person. Barker is listed as a teacher of exceptional children for kindergarten and first-grade students at McAdenville Elementary in Gaston County.

According to an arrest warrant, Barker is accused of picking up a handicapped child by his ears causing " a laceration to his lower ear and bleeding." Another warrant accused her of taking a stuffed animal that had been soaked in cold water and squeezing it over a child's head."

Monday evening, we spoke with a mother who says her child was Barker's class and endured months of abuse, as well. She called police to report Barker's actions in February.

"When I got the news she was arrested, it was the best news ever. Today it was like the biggest brick lifted off my chest," she said.

WBTV is concealing the woman's identity for privacy purposes, but she says she had questions about Barker for months after her five-year-old son would come over with scrapes and bruises.

"I don't send him with marks, so I don't want him to come home with marks without an explanation," she said.

The woman says the problems started in October, less than two months after her son started attending McAdenville Elementary. When she'd ask Barker where the marks came from, she says the teacher always had an explanation.

She says her son's cheery demeanor started to change.

"He had such aggression and I didn't understand. I could not pinpoint what is going on in the classroom. What is triggering this? I had no clue," she said.

The woman says she continued to press the school for answers until last month when she found out Barker had been suspended for abuse. But when she heard Barker may be returning to teach she says she called other parents and police.

"I sent him to school thinking not only he was going to be cared for, loved, taught, but he was going to be protected. And he wasn't," she said.

Barker is currently suspended with pay.

According to school records, Barker was suspended with pay from January 24 until February 6. She was suspended a second time on February 6 and is still out on suspension.

Barker has been with Gaston County Schools since July 2001 and is a tenured teacher with the school district. She has been at McAdenville Elementary since July 2012.

There are no other demotions or demerits on her school record.

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