Thursday, February 4, 2010

Teacher Charged with Letting Students Wrestle in Classroom

A teacher and an aide assigned to PS 65 in Ozone Park have been arraigned on child endangerment charges for allowing two fourth graders to wrestle in the classroom in order to settle a dispute, authorities announced.

Teacher Joseph Gullotta, 29, and para-professional Abraham Fox, 43, both of Long Island, were arraigned over the weekend in Queens Criminal Court and released on their own recognizance. They are due back in court on February 25 and face up to a year in jail.

According to the charges, a 10-year-old student was having a dispute with a student inside the classroom on January 28 when Gullotta told him that he should instead take it out on a nine-year-old student. When the two boys began grabbing each other’s arms and shoulders and wrestling, Gullotta allegedly told another student to close the door.

During the wrestling match, the older student’s head struck the younger student’s mouth, resulting in injuries to both children. Even though he was inside the classroom at the time, Fox didn’t attempt to stop the boys or offer them assistance for their injuries. In addition, despite the students’ injuries and Fox’s observation that the younger might need stitches, neither adult offered the boys the chance to go to the nurse’s office until two periods later.

Finally, two hours after the wrestling match, Gullotta allowed just the younger boy to go to the nurse and allegedly instructed him to lie about how his injuries occurred. However, the student voiced concern about the other student, who had complained that his head hurt. The nurse told the student to go back to the classroom and get the other student. Gullotta is accused of escorting the older student to the nurse’s office and ordering him to tell the same made-up story the younger child had told the nurse.

The incident came to light when the parent of one of the students involved in the incident overheard them talking about it. The investigation at the school, located at 103-22 99th Street, was conducted by the 106th Precinct.

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