By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com August 30 2012 3:48 PM ET
A Washington State middle-school teacher joined students in physically harassing an eighth-grade student during the substitute teacher's math class in February, according to student cell phone videos published by the Tacoma News Tribune. Now the bullied student's parents are calling for the teacher to be fired, claiming his 10-day suspension without pay was inadequate punishment.
Graphic video footage surfaced this week and shows students dragging a boy around the room, pinning him under desk chairs, and stuffing a sock in his mouth. At one point teacher John Rosi joins in the bullying, pretending to sit on top of the boy and saying "I'm feeling kind of gassy!"
Rosi, an 18-year teaching veteran, was leading a 30-minute class on reading and math skills in February at Kopachuk Middle School in Gig Harbor, Wash., when students began engaging in what Rosi says was "harmless childhood horseplay."
The incident lasted about 14 minutes, according to a letter Rosi sent to the Peninsula School District regarding the incident. In that letter Rosi acknowledges that he knew students were filming the encounter but "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."
The bullied student, whose name has not been released, told his father, Randall Kinney, "I want to die. I want to kill myself," according to Seattle's KING 5. The Kinneys removed their son from the school district and say he now attends a private school.
Kinney and his wife, Karla, have requested a criminal investigation and are calling for Rosi's termination. Joan Mell, an attorney representing the student, who was 13 years old at the time of the incident, told KIRO 7, "It was a teacher-led bullying incident of epic proportions."
Peninsula School District superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto said Rosi made a mistake but that the district's response and punishment was appropriate. Cuzzetto said in a press conference that the bullying was an "isolated situation in an 18-year-career that's horrific, and it deserves some pretty significant reaction, fast. And that's what we did."