A teacher has been captured on mobile phone video footage joining in with the abuse of a small boy during a reading and math preparation class.
Sean Robinson of The News Tribune reports that the footage shows a small boy being dragged around a classroom by a dozen other students who peeled off his socks, stuffed one in his mouth and wrote over his feet. They also held a pillow over his face, covered him with chairs and held him like a hammock. The footage of the incident lasts for 15 minutes and at one point teacher John Rosi, instead of stopping the abuse, squats over the child concerned with his rear pointed towards the boys face and says, ‘I’m feeling kinda gassy.’
The footage ends when Rosi eventually tells the students to get back to their lessons with only a couple of minutes of class remaining. During the 15 minute incident, Rosi was fully aware he was being recorded, even mugging for the camera.
“I was aware the student reactions were being video recorded,” Rosi wrote in a Feb. 10 letter to district investigators. “I can honestly say that at the time I did not believe that any of the children were at risk of harm during their interactions. Nor did I view the incident as anything more than harmless childhood horse play and a chance for the kids to take a break from the daily grind.”
In his statement, Rosi goes on to mention his years as a wrestling coach to prove that he would be aware of the line between horseplay and potential harm. He also said he considered the victim to be a great kid who was happy to indulge in horseplay in the past.
As punishment for the February incident, Rosi was suspended for 10 days and shifted out of the preparation classrooms. He signed a ‘last chance’ agreement in April that recognizes his suspension was in lieu of termination. He now works at different school.
The boy’s parents are still furious and have requested a criminal investigation. They consider it a clear case of extended bullying and are angry that Peninsula District officials have consistently downplayed the seriousness of the attack, instead categorizing it as a mixture of roughhousing and poor classroom management.
“(Rosi) is completely ignorant of the fact that he’s got a whole classroom hazing one kid,” said the boy’s father, interviewed Monday by The News Tribune. “They classified it as roughhousing. But it’s not 14 kids wrestling each other. It’s a dozen kids using my son to demonstrate their dominance over him.”
Acting Superintendent Chuck Cuzetto says that the incident was investigated and appropriate disciplinary and remedial action was taken. The boy’s parents worry that even though they’ve removed their child from the school and sent him to private school, the district still has significant problems that could lead to another boy replacing their son as classroom victim.
“I don’t think that they’ve addressed the dangers to the students,” the father said. “They’ve never regarded this as a bullying incident or a psychologically traumatizing incident for our son.”