PITTSBURG -- A former Antioch special education teacher accused of physically abusing her young autistic students at Mno Grant Elementary School was arraigned Tuesday on six felony counts of child abuse.

Theresa Allen-Caulboy turned herself in Tuesday at the Pittsburg courthouse, complying with a $600,000 warrant for her arrest that was issued last week when the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office filed charges alleging six victims -- boys and girls ages 5, 6 and 7 -- were abused between October 2012 and Jan. 30, 2013.

Allen-Caulboy, 55, of Brentwood, resigned from the Antioch Unified School District in February, a month after parents reported her to police and she was placed on administrative leave.

At a bail hearing Tuesday, prosecutor Melissa Smith said Allen-Caulboy "preyed" on vulnerable children, some of whom are nonverbal, and that there is "nothing to indicate that something prompted her to act out this way."

Less than six months after she started teaching at the school, other district employees began witnessing Allen-Caulboy commit abusive acts, including kneeing a child in the chest, pinching a child's nipples, backhanded slaps, pinning children to the ground and forcing students to "eat boogers," according to Smith. Allen-Caulboy allegedly threatened a school aide that anyone who reported her conduct was "going to get sued," Smith said.

Prosecutors would not say whether there are charges pending against any school district employees who allegedly witnessed or received complaints from parents but did not go to police as mandated by law, before parents sparked the police investigation in January.

"All aspects of this case are still being investigated," said senior Deputy District Attorney Nancy Georgiou.

Defense attorney Elizabeth Grossman described Allen-Caulboy as a "thoughtful, compassionate, hardworking, caring and sensitive human being" who received no prior complaints in her 11 years of teaching.

The defendant was accompanied to court with her family and a former colleague at John Muir Elementary School in Antioch, where Allen-Caulboy taught autistic students in 2011.

"This is a person who very much wants to address these charges," Grossman told the judge, later adding, "I have a lot to say about whether (the DA) will prevail on these counts."

Judge Nancy Davis Stark ordered Allen-Caulboy to electronic house arrest until she can post a $200,000 property bond. The judge further ordered Allen-Caulboy not to teach or care for any minors and issued a restraining order barring any contact with the alleged victims and witnesses in the case.

Allen-Caulboy is scheduled to return to court on Aug. 12 to post bond and enter her plea to the charges.

Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.