Lawyer: Teacher joined in as teen was bullied
(CBS News) GIG HARBOR, Wash. - A cell-phone video that appears to show a middle-school student being bullied in front of a teacher in a classroom prompted police to open an investigation, CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO-TV reports.
The video shot by students was taken last February, but was just made public.
Attorney Joan Mell, who is representing the 13-year-old victim, said the boy and his family have been left traumatized by what happened under the teacher'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."
Acting Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto said the teacher in the incident, John Rosi, made a mistake but that it was an isolated, horrific incident in an 18-year career that the district dealt with appropriately.
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."
On Wednesday, the sheriff's office said it was investigating. The district said it will cooperate with the investigation.
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-TV 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.
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