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Teacher charged with slapping student resigns

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WINONA -- The special-education teacher at Winona Senior High School who was charged in May with slapping a student has resigned.

Winona Area Public Schools Board members Tuesday morning accepted the resignation of Theresa Kersting, approving an agreement that places Kersting on paid administrative leave through 2012 and bars her from seeking future employment with the district.

Court records show that the 50-year-old pleaded guilty earlier this month to misdemeanor assault and was placed on one year of unsupervised probation.

She also was granted a continuance for dismissal, meaning if Kersting remains law abiding for the next year, her record will remain free of the conviction and the case will be expunged.

"I don't expect there will be any further proceedings," said Kersting’s attorney, Sarah MacGillis.

MacGillis declined to comment on Kersting’s decision to resign, saying Kersting had personal reasons for doing so.

Prosecuting attorney Michael Flaherty said that Kersting’s lack of criminal history and her willingness to take responsibility for the incident were factors in offering the continuance for dismissal.

According to a criminal complaint, a classroom aide told Winona Senior High School principal Kelly Halvorsen last spring that Kersting had slapped a 19-year-old male special-education student in early April after he grabbed Kersting’s glasses and threw them on the floor. Halvorsen subsequently contacted the Winona Police Department, which initiated an investigation.

According to a police report, the boy is not verbal and was not able to give an account of the incident.

Winona Area Public Schools employees are required by law to report to their supervisors any instance or evidence of child abuse or neglect they observe. Those reports are forwarded to police or the department of human services for investigation.

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