PITTSFIELD — A substitute art teacher at Vickery School in Pittsfield was fired last week after she told fourth-grade students they were stupid because they could not follow directions, officials said.

School Administrative District 53 Superintendent Dominic DePatsy confirmed the disciplinary action Thursday, noting the woman was a substitute teacher and not a member of the full-time teaching staff and not someone represented by the teachers’ union.

DePatsy would not identify the teacher.

“There was an incident and we took the necessary steps to ensure that all the children would be safe and respected and that it would never happen again and that was put into action,” DePatsy said.

Leah May, whose daughter was in the class, said when she heard about the incident she went to the school and spoke to the assistant principal.

“It was a collective group of the class that was talking about it,” May said. “I picked my daughter up from Girl Scouts and when I got there they were all talking about a teacher that had said something to them.”

May said the students, mostly 9-year-olds, were shown how to do an art project. When students began asking questions, the substitute art teacher called them names.

“She said, ‘Aren’t you all just stupid and ignorant? Can’t even do your project?’” May said. “She even told one boy he is retarded.”

The children told their homeroom teacher, who alerted the principal, May said.

“I was shocked,” May said. “I don’t send my daughter to school to be told she is stupid or ignorant for asking questions — if the kids don’t understand the instructions they were given, it’s their job to make them understand, not to call them names. I was very upset — past upset — irate.”

DePatsy said Thursday the school’s regular art teacher left in December. The district hired a substitute to fill in until a replacement was found.

“It happened once and we just didn’t invite her back,” he said.

DePatsy said the district works from a list of applicants to hire substitute teachers. Each applicant is subject to a background check.

SAD 53 includes the towns of Burnham, Detroit and Pittsfield. Vickery School has students in grades one through four, with a student body of approximately 285, 14 classroom teachers and several support staff, according to the district’s website.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367 dharlow@centralmaine.com Twitter: @Doug_Harlow