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APPLETON — A former Appleton teacher named in a federal civil rights lawsuit denies having abused her students.

In a response filed in late April to a lawsuit in U.S. Eastern District Court, Mary C. Berglund, 55, a former Janet Berry Elementary School teacher, asked for the case against her to be dismissed.

The lawsuit was filed in February by the families of six former students. The Appleton Area School District, Supt. Lee Allinger and Janet Berry Elementary School Principal Richard Waters also are named as defendants in the civil case.

The civil action followed a criminal case against Berglund in Calumet County. Appleton police and child protection workers began an investigation into Berglund in 2011 after an educational assistant reported her concerns about Berglund’s treatment of students to school officials.

Berglund’s attorney, Martin De Vries, of Fond du Lac, said his client did not abuse the students listed in the complaint.

“Any actions by (Berglund) were a good-faith attempt to maintain discipline and order, with no intent to cause harm,” De Vries wrote.

Berglund, who taught special education, was placed on probation for three years in December in Calumet County Court on five misdemeanor battery counts. A judge withheld judgment on a felony count of child abuse.

Berglund permanently lost her teaching license.

The families seek damages for physical abuse on the part of Berglund, “which the other defendants failed to stop,” the civil complaint says.

The complaint says Allinger, Berglund and Waters had the responsibility to ensure the students had “a reasonably safe place to attend school” and make sure they were “free from physical and emotional abuse from school staff.”

The district and its officials are represented by a different attorney and filed a separate answer to the complaint last month. They claimed a lack of “knowledge and information” regarding the veracity of specific child abuse allegations outlined in the complaint, though admitted “that Berglund occasionally used improper physical force to discipline plaintiffs.”

Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick, attorney for five of the six families, said the case remains in its preliminary stages. He said he still awaits response from the defendants to a settlement demand he provided them.

Judge William Griesbach will hold a June 11 telephone conference with lawyers to set a schedule for the case.

— Jim Collar: 920-993-1000, ext. 216, or jcollar@postcrescent.com

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