GIG HARBOR, Washington - A video that appears to show a brutal act of bullying in a Kopachuck Middle School classroom has some people wondering why a teacher who allegedly participated is still employed.
The cell phone video shot by students was taken last February, but was just made public.
KIRO 7 talked to acting superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto, who said the teacher in the incident, John Rosi, made a mistake, but that it was an isolated, horrific incident in a 18-year career that the district dealt with appropriately.
But Joan Mell, who is representing the 13-year-old victim, said the boy and his family have been left traumatized by what happened under Rosi’s watch.
“It was a teacher-led bullying incident of epic proportions,” Mell said. “The teacher poked (the boy) in the belly, the teacher turned around and put his bottom up in his face and said he felt gassy…. (The boy) had a pillow placed on his face where he couldn’t breathe for several seconds. He had his own socks shoved into his mouth.”
The Peninsula School District said it got a look at the video right after the incident.
“I was horrified by what I saw,” Cuzzetto said. “We immediately placed the teacher on leave.”
After an internal investigation, Rosi was suspended for 10 days, reassigned as a substitute teacher for the rest of the school year, given new classroom management training and assigned to a different middle school for this fall.
“We took what we think is pretty significant disciplinary action against the teacher,” Cuzzetto said.
KIRO 7 wasn’t able to contact Rosi by phone, but in a letter written to the district, he apologized for the incident and explained that he didn’t view it as “anything more than harmless childhood horseplay.”
But the boy’s attorney said the teen hasn’t been able to return to class after the incident. He’s switched schools and undergone psychiatric therapy.
“It was no horseplay because there was no play going on,” Mell said.
The school district did not feel the need to report the incident to the sheriff’s office, and the state’s office of Child Protective Services said it didn’t receive a report, either.
KIRO 7 has now been told the sheriff’s office is investigating. The district said it will cooperate with the investigation.