A St. Petersburg teacher was arrested Tuesday after she allegedly told a group of former students they had to cut and burn themselves to rid their bodies of demons, officials said.
Danielle Harkins, 35, a teacher at Lealman and Asian Neighborhood Family Center, faces charges of aggravated child abuse and child abuse, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that at least two teens were injured after Harkins met with a group of seven at the pier, instructing them to cut their skin to release the evil spirits and burn their wounds to keep the spirits away.
One teen suffered second-degree burns after Harkins coated his hand in perfume before lighting it on fire, the Times said.
Authorities said another victim had a cut on the neck made with a broken bottle. They said during the ritual, Harkins placed a heated key on the teen’s wound.
Officials said they were alerted to the incident when one of the teen participants texted a friend about the ritual. The friend then told the boy’s parents who called police, the Times said.
"Obviously, it's very strange," St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz told the Times. "The motivations for the ritual are very unknown to us."
Harkins was suspended from her job without pay, school administrators told the newspaper.
"We had no suspicion of any of this," Carolyn Chance, the center's administrator was quoted by the Times as saying. "We do everything we can to know our employees."
Harkins remains in jail on $55,000 bond. It was not immediately known if Harkins had an attorney.