Police investigate allegations teacher assaulted student

Posted: Friday, December 13, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Anchorage police and Anchorage School District officials are investigating an allegation that an award-winning fourth-grade teacher assaulted a child during a field trip last week, school officials said Thursday.

''We are taking this very seriously,'' superintendent Carol Comeau said. The department expected to complete its investigation this week, Comeau said.

Two parents say they've filed complaints with the Anchorage Police Department against Ravenwood Elementary School teacher Susan Brusehaber.

Parent Amy Vandervalk says she witnessed the alleged assault, which took place Dec. 5 during a class outing at a Wal-Mart store to buy Christmas gifts for a needy family.

At about 3 p.m., the fourth-graders were instructed to put their coats on and get ready to return to school.

Cyle Coats, 9, came trotting up from the back of the store, a little late. Vandervalk saw him run up, all smiles. The teacher spotted Cyle, too, Vandervalk said, and appeared angry.

''She reached out and grabbed his neck,'' Vanderval said. ''I could see the life drain out of this child. He was horrified, white, terrified.''

Cyle's mother, Sara, was not at the Wal-Mart. She said she talked to her son and Vandervalk about the details of the incident.

Sara Coats says Brusehaber told her son: ''You're dead meat for what you just did'' -- a reference to the running, she assumed. ''She put both hands around his neck,'' Coats said. ''He said it hurt. He was coughing and choking. And he was frightened.''

Brusehaber could not be reached for comment. One of seven Anchorage teachers selected as BP Teachers of Excellence in 1997, Brusehaber also won a $5,000 grant in 1999 from the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation for a classroom watershed project.

Coats and Vandervalk both filed police reports and have talked with school officials.

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