A Georgia special education teacher who was accused of holding an autistic boy upside-down and lowering him head-first into a trash can while comparing him to Oscar the Grouch says she was trying to calm the boy, not hurt him.

At a school system hearing Monday near Atlanta, Mary Katherine Pursley said the second-grader was screaming and upset April 30, and she was trying to "shake out the grouchy."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a panel of former educators at the hearing will decide whether she's dismissed from Cobb County Schools. Separately, Pursley faces a felony charge of first-degree cruelty to children.

Her lawyer, Warren Fortson, said her actions were not inappropriate, and that she has used characters such as Oscar the Grouch to help calm special education students.