A jury found a paraprofessional, who has since been terminated, not guilty after she was accused of grabbing and pulling a five-year-old student numerous times at Big Hollow School in Ingleside.
Monika Bruchert, 44, of Round Lake Beach, was charged in May with three counts of battery, a Class A misdemeanor.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office received a call on November 17, 2022, from the mother of a five-year-old girl who attended school in the Big Hollow School District.
Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli told Lake and McHenry County Scanner at the time that the mother had concerns about a physical interaction her daughter had with Bruchert, who was a district paraprofessional.
The mother was informed of the interaction by one of the district’s principals earlier in the day.
A sheriff’s detective assigned to the Lake County Children’s Advocacy Center was notified of the incident and conducted an investigation.
Covelli said Bruchert aggressively grabbed the five-year-old girl by the arm while attempting to bring the child to a different classroom.
The child was sitting in her chair and apparently did not listen to verbal instructions to move to a different area, Covelli said.
When the child refused, Bruchert took the child by the arm and pulled it several times, Covelli said.
Covelli said the child then rested her head on her hands, leading Bruchert to forcefully lift the child’s head up by her chin several times.
Bruchert also pulled the child out of her chair by the child’s arm, Covelli said.
The investigation consisted of a forensic interview of the child, reviewing school district video surveillance, speaking to Bruchert and speaking to other witnesses.
The detective screened the case with the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office on May 15 after the investigation was completed.
The state’s attorney’s office approved the charges against Bruchert and an arrest warrant was obtained on May 26.
Covelli said that Big Hollow School District was fully cooperative during the investigation.
Prosecutors said Bruchert worked at the Primary School of Big Hollow School District.
The school officials conducted their own internal investigation and ended their employment relationship with Bruchert in December.
A jury trial began last week and lasted three days. The jury returned a not-guilty verdict Thursday morning.
Danielle Zenner, the mother of the victim, told Lake and McHenry County Scanner she was disappointed in the verdict.
The incident involving Bruchert and the young girl was captured on video and showed the paraprofessional aggressively touching the child 26 times in 20 minutes, Zenner said.
“I hope someone can learn from this. As a parent, it was hard to watch the video,” Zenner said, adding that it is “not something any parent should see.”
The mother said Bruchert showed no remorse and never apologized for her actions. “She never thought she did anything wrong,” Zenner said.
Several staff members of the school testified at the trial and mentioned their practice of teaching under the motto “praise loudly, discipline quietly.”
Zenner said Big Hollow School District was very supportive and did not do anything wrong in the situation. The principal was with the family throughout the entire trial.
The mother also thanked the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office, saying they were “amazing to work with” and put on a good case.