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Caldwell special education preschool teacher pleads not guilty to 11 child abuse charges

Kerry Black pled not guilty to 11 counts of injury to a child in court Friday. She was arrested at her home on Feb. 17, but is currently out of jail on bond.

CALDWELL, Idaho — The preschool teacher from Caldwell accused of abusing her special education students was in court on Friday afternoon.

45-year-old Kerry Black pled not guilty to 11 counts of injury to a child. She was arrested by Ada County Sheriff deputies at her home on Feb. 17, but is currently out of jail on bond.

The Caldwell Police Department alleges Black hit, spanked and forcefully turned the heads of preschool-aged children in her special education classroom at Lincoln Elementary School.

Teachers who spoke to police about Black said she began exhibiting aggressive behavior two years prior to her arrest. Canyon County court records show the first is dated Jan. 17, the second dated Jan. 23, the next Jan. 24, the next two Jan. 27, then one on Jan. 31 and the last five charges were dated Feb. 8 - all from 2023.

If convicted, Black could face up to 11 years in prison and up to an $11,000 fine. 

In court on Friday, the state requested Black wear a GPS monitor to ensure she doesn't go near schools, and to make sure she follows the no-contact order previously issued. Black's defense attorney agreed to the GPS  monitor.

She must follow these stipulations under her pretrial release order. 

Black's pretrial conference is set for April 24 at 9 a.m.

In a probable cause affidavit submitted by Caldwell Police Detective and school resource officer Kristopher Wallin, Wallin states he got a message from the principal at Lincoln Elementary on Feb. 14 informing him the school received multiple complaints, from six school staff members, about alleged physical abuse by Black.

Wallin wrote in the affidavit one staff member told him that on Jan. 17, Black was "getting frustrated" with a child who was not listening, so Black crossed the room and "smacked the diaper of the student twice."

Another staff member told Wallin she was requested to help out in the preschool class due to staffing issues on Jan. 23. As the preschool children were lining up against a bulletin board, one child reached out and began to play with the paper that was hanging off the board. The affidavit states this staff member saw Black "smack his hand three times and pushed it down in his lap."

"I was seven feet away and could clearly hear the sound from each contact," the teacher told Wallin in the affidavit.

The same teacher described Black as "aggressive and very manual," and that her demeanor was often aggressive because "that's just her go-to."  The teacher told Wallin that the physical contact was more than the situation warranted, she would not do it herself at her place of work, and she thought this was some sort of a pattern in Black's behavior.

A male staff member told Wallin in the affidavit Black was forcefully moving children's heads and "holding onto (the child's) skull." He said during station time in the classroom, Black "smacked" a child while he was playing with Legos, later forced him into a chair, and later smacked the child's hands when the child reached for some toys. The staff member told police he believed Black was taking her frustration out on the children in the classroom.

Other staff members told police Black seemed agitated and on edge fairly often, always spoke to children in a stern tone and that she was rougher with the children than most parents would expect a teacher to be.

One teacher told the officer that this wasn't an isolated incident -- Black had "put her hand on their behinds," the teacher said. She was on medical leave and when she returned she noticed Black would get physical with the children more frequently, spanking them often. She said she's seen one child cry in response to Black's actions.

Wallin wrote in the affidavit that this teacher believed Black has been physical with children for the last two years, but hadn't reported the behavior.

A teacher is quoted in the affidavit as telling police, "I know that if it was my child or a family member, I would not be OK with it, especially children with disabilities."

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