Bryan Hershman, the lawyer for teacher John Rosi, on Tuesday called it "utter nonsense" that Rosi was involved in a 'bullying' incident based on at videotape captured at KopachukMiddle School in February.
"He (Rosi) allowed that line between teacher and students to dim, and he wishes that didn't happen," Hershman said. But accusations that he allowed a student to be bullied in his classroom or took part in it is "preposterous" and "utter nonsense."
No students were harmed in the "horseplay" and none complained afterward, he said.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said last week it is investigating a complaint of an alleged bullying incident, caught on video, involving a student at Kopachuk Middle School.
The department said it was contacted July 30 by a lawyer representing the parents of the student who was concerned that her clients’ 13-year-old son had been the victim of a bullying incident and that "the incident appeared to be abuse.”
“The attorney also gave detectives a redacted copy of an investigation into the bullying incident that was conducted by the Peninsula School District,” the sheriff's department said, adding that detectives have interviewed the alleged victim.
“The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department has requested a non-redacted copy of the investigation from the Peninsula School District,” the statement said. “Once these documents have been obtained, investigators will determine if further investigation is needed.”
The video was shot with a student’s cell phone during what was supposed to be a math class.
“It was a teacher-led bullying incident of epic proportions,” said lawyer Joan Mell, representing the parents of the alleged victim.
She says teacher John Rosi led the rest of the class to stack chairs on the boy, place a pillow over his face and put socks in his mouth.
“He was assaulted several times. He was assaulted by the teacher, the teacher poked him in the belly, the teacher turned around and put his bottom in his face and said, ‘I feel gassy,’ " she alleged.
The lawyer said that after the incident, the boy refused to return to class and even became suicidal. His family transferred him to a private school.
The News Tribune of Tacoma obtained a redacted copy of a letter Rosi sent to the Peninsula School District on Feb. 10, “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,” Rosi wrote. “Nor did I view the incident as anything more than harmless childhood horse play.”
He said that the “horseplay” lasted about 14 minutes and that afterward: “Not one student complained about being sore, hurt, assaulted or this being a form of child abuse.
“At the time of this interaction in my class, I did not believe that any of my students were at risk of injury or undue pain. I simply viewed the interaction as a matter of boys will be boys and allowing the kids a diversion from the normal after a long period of intense studies.”
However, the acting superintendent of the school district, Chuck Cuzzetto, said, “I was horrified by what I saw” on the video. After an investigation, he said he decided to suspend the teacher and then move Rosi to another school.
“It was very inappropriate,” he said. “If it was something that if it happened again, he’d be gone. If it was something that had happened before, he’d be gone. It was an isolated situation in an 18-year career.”
The family said through their lawyer that that’s not good enough – they want the teacher fired and the police to investigate as a possible case of child assault and abuse.