MILWAUKEE -- A substitute teacher charged with child abuse pleaded guilty to a lesser charge on Thursday as part of a deal with the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office.
Glen Fink, who used to work for Wauwatosa School District, was charged with felony physical abuse of a child after another teacher saw him put a 12-year-old student with a disability in a choke hold, twist his arm, and say, "There is no one here to see it."
"He admits that he had physical contact with the child," said Jeffrey Jensen, Fink's attorney. "But whether that amounts to a headlock is open for dispute."
A FOX6 investigation revealed Fink had previously been accused of hurting another Wauwatosa student. No charges were filed in that case; the student has down syndrome and a police report says she had a hard time telling police what happened.
Fink pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery in court on Thursday. After seven months, the judge says his charge will drop again if he meets certain conditions. Ultimately, Fink could end up with a disorderly conduct ticket.
"There are ways to defend this case, but it was Mr. Fink's decision to go ahead and accept responsibility under the deferred prosecution agreement," Jensen said. "One defense that comes to mind is that this was legitimate discipline by a teacher."
State law says school staff may not restrain students as a form of punishment. Disability advocates are pushing new legislation they say would strengthen that law.
As part of the agreement, Fink is required to go through an anger management program and is prevented from working in a profession that involves the supervision of children.
"The defendant was a teacher," Assistant Milwaukee County District Attorney Erin Karshen said. "This conviction will, I believe, prohibit him from working as a teacher."
But the Department of Public Instruction says that's not necessarily the case. A DPI spokesperson, referencing state law, said a teacher's license is only automatically revoked for conviction of certain class H felonies or higher offenses.
Fink's original charge was a Felony I, which does not lead to an automatic license revocation. A teacher's license is not automatically revoked for misdemeanor convictions or tickets. In those cases, a DPI investigation determines whether the person in question can still work as a teacher.
DPI currently lists Fink's license status as "under investigation."
FOX6 News asked Fink for a response as he walked out of court. He said, "No thank you."