A Florida literacy specialist was arrested for child abuse Tuesday after expanding her repertoire to include hands-on demonology instruction.
The Miami Herald reports that, last weekend, Danielle Harkins told seven of her former students to cut their skin to allow evil spirits to escape from their bodies, and then taught them how to cauterize the wounds with heated up house keys, lest the spirits return.
It was comprehensive instruction.
Harkins, demonstrating a great flair for the dramatic, staged the ritual around dusk Saturday evening. She built a small fire near the St. Petersburg Pier for the teenagers to stand around as they self-exorcised.
At the moment, police are having a hard time getting the kids to open up about the specifics. The few details they have accumulated are bizarre and gruesome.
For example: when the wind coming off the water blew out the flame from a cigarette lighter Harkins was using as part of the cauterization stage, she poured perfume on one boy's hand, then set it on fire. He suffered second degree burns.
Another teen bore a cut on the neck from a broken bottle.
None of the students involved told their parents. Word about the ritual got out when one boy mentioned it in a text to a friend, and that friend told his parents.
Harkins met the teenagers while they were enrolled in programs at the Lealman & Asian Neighborhood Family Center, where she has worked for the past four and a half years. (She's since been suspended without pay.)
Carolyn Chance, the director of the center, who, to her credit, seems very sweet and genuinely astonished by all this, observed to WTVT Tampa Bay reporters that "Just recently, [Harkins] started exploring religion."