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Judge: Teacher’s statement is admissible in assault case

MANKATO, Minn. — A statement a teacher provided to the St. Peter High School principal, who was investigating allegations the teacher hit a student with a backpack, can be heard or seen by a jury during a criminal trial, a judge’s ruling said.

Robert Carl Shoemaker, 54, is accused of dropping an 11-pound backpack on the student’s head during a science class on Sept. 26, 2013. The student said he wasn’t feeling well and had his head down on his desk to rest when the backpack hit him.

Shoemaker was interviewed by Peterson the day after the incident. Before the interview, Shoemaker was given what is called a “Tennessen warning.” It warned Shoemaker that any information he provided could be used for disciplinary action. The warning also said he had the option to not provide a statement, but the school would then depend on information from others to make a disciplinary decision.

Peterson did not tell Shoemaker the information could be used by law enforcement for a criminal investigation and prosecution.

In October 2013, Shoemaker, who has worked at the school for 20 years, was charged with a gross misdemeanor count of malicious punishment of a child and a misdemeanor count of fifth-degree assault.

A motion was filed in April by Shoemaker’s attorney, Sarah MacGillis, saying the statement to the principal shouldn’t be admissible. The order issued by Brown County District Court Judge Robert Docherty said it is admissible because school policies say private personnel data and confidential data about employees can be turned over to law enforcement.