BONHAM — The former special education teacher accused of assaulting a student took the stand Tuesday to tell jurors her side of the story.

BONHAM — The former special education teacher accused of assaulting a student took the stand Tuesday to tell jurors her side of the story.


Adriane Connerley, 30, is on trial for charges of assault with a deadly weapon and unlawful restraint. The charges came about after Connerley and paraeducator Brent Johnson were caught on video allegedly assaulting and restraining a 10-year-old student with mental disabilities in May of last year. The camera had been set up by other teachers in order to catch a possible thief.


In previous days of the trial, Connerley’s former co-workers testified that the restraints she can be seen using on the video were not approved by the school. Doctors called by the prosecution said that at several points, the child was at serious risk of bodily injury.


Appearing solemn, Connerley testified to the court Tuesday.


She said that in 2012 she had been approached by principal Carrie McClain to teach for Fannin County’s Students Taking Responsibility in Individual Discipline and Education, or STRIDE, program. STRIDE is an alternative program for children with mental disabilities or discipline problems. Connerley said that she was at first reluctant to take the job offer since she knew the position had a high turnover rate. She eventually agreed, she said, because she cared about the students in the class.


"No one else wanted to teach these children, but I wanted to," she said.


Once she was hired, Connerley described several changes she made to the STRIDE classroom. She took out the rows of desks and brought in circular tables, because she had noticed from experience that special needs children work better that way. She put in a water fountain and lavender scents to have a calming effect on the children. She bought two guinea pigs with her own money for the children to play with if they behaved.


The child involved in the alleged assault became enrolled in the STRIDE program in October because no other teacher could control him, she said. The child had mental disabilities and often hallucinated. Connerley said that she and the child had a great teacher-student relationship.


"I loved (the child) and he loved me," she said. "I would do anything for him."


Connerley even recounted a story in which the child had given her a plastic, toy ring. He had explained to Connerley that it was an engagement ring and that he wanted to marry her.


While the child liked Connerley, she said he did often act out. He would have "meltdowns" in which he would refuse to do work and would become violent, kicking, punching, biting and spitting at Connerley and the teacher’s aides. When talking to the child would not calm him down, usually a teacher’s aide would restrain him, Connerley said.


Connerley said that she had been encouraged by McClain and by counselor Ricky Kennedy to be firm with the children and to use restraints as punishment. She said that several times she was afraid she might lose her job for not being forceful enough while disciplining the children. Johnson even once accused Connerley of "coddling" the children, she said.


In January of 2013, Connerley said she saw the child’s behavior dramatically worsen. He started hallucinating and acting out more, and it was becoming more and more difficult to calm him down, she said.


On the day of the alleged assault, the child had been acting out and refusing to do his work. He knocked down a divider and nearly hit a six-year-old girl and the guinea pigs, she said. After talking to the child did not work to curb his behavior, Connerley and Johnson took him into another classroom.


Upon entering the classroom Connerley asked another teacher if there were any cameras inside because she knew they had been trying to catch a potential thief and she was concerned that the child would be caught on camera having a meltdown.


The child still refused to sit down and do his work, Connerley said. She and Johnson used restraints on the child every time he disobeyed. They had been taught by McClain and Kennedy to use restraints on children as discipline, she said.


"I was only doing what I had been taught to do," she said.


The video was projected onto a screen for jurors to see for the fourth time. Defense attorney Bob Jarvis played clips of the video and asked Connerley to explain her and Johnson’s actions.


Johnson and Connerley ignored the child’s screaming, she said, because it was usual behavior for him. Connerley also claimed that the child would say "You’re hurting me" even if no one was touching him. Therefore she did not believe the child was hurting as she and Johnson were restraining him on the video — even though the child screamed and said he was being hurt.


Connerley said she had seen the child in real pain during an incident when he fell during recess and scraped his knee. He cried when that happened, she said. At no point in the video does the child cry.


At one point in the video, Connerley can be seen holding the child’s foot while Johnson is holding his arms behind his back.


"The more you kick, the more I’ll twist," Connerley says. The child immediately screams.


Connerley said that at this point she was only holding onto his pant leg. What she meant by "twisting" was that she twisted the child’s pant leg to get a firmer grip on him.


Toward the end of the video, Connerley and Johnson ask the child to hit them. Jarvis asked Connerley why they did this.


"We wanted to see if he was finished playing his games," she said.


Connerley then admitted that slapping the child in the face with paper was wrong, and she only did it in reaction to a comment he made.


"Looking back, what would you change about your time at STRIDE?" Jarvis asked.


"I would have talked to (the child) more instead of restraining him. I would have stood up to Carrie (McClain) and Ricky (Kennedy) when they told me to restrain the children more," she said. There was a pause as Connerley began crying.


"I would change everything about that video," she said through tears.


Shortly thereafter, prosecutor James Moss began his cross-examination.


"What would you do if you saw a video of a teacher treating one of your daughters the way you treated (the child)?" Moss asked.


"I don’t know," Connerley said. "My daughters don’t have behavior problems."


"You don’t know?" Moss exclaimed. "You wouldn’t be pissed off? You wouldn’t be calling the cops?"


Moss directed the conversation to Connerley’s comment about the child’s screams being "an act."


"This child has an IQ of 66. He’s in the bottom 3 percent of the population in intelligence. And you think he’s smart enough to fake you and Brent Johnson out?" Moss asked.


"You don’t know (the child)," Connerley replied.


Moss played the video yet again and spent over an hour asking Connerley more questions about her and Johnson’s actions.


At one point the child mentions Jesus, of whom he often had hallucinations.


"There ain’t enough Jesus in the world to fix you," Connerley says to the child on the video.


"I cannot imagine a more cruel thing to say to a child," Moss said. "Why did you say that?"


Connerley replied that she did not know.


Finally, Moss asked, "Looking at your behavior in this video, is it fair to say that all you did wrong was hit (the child) with the paper?"


"I listened to my supervisors Carrie McClain and Ricky Kennedy when I shouldn’t have," Connerley said, before admitting that the child did not deserve what she and Johnson did to him in the video.


At the end of the day, the defense rested their case. The trial will continue Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.