By David Madden, Robin Rieger
TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — Following allegations that teachers might have bullied students in a pair of South Jersey schools (see related story), legislation has been introduced in Trenton to enhance what is considered the nation’s strongest anti-bullying law (related story) by speeding up the process when adults are involved.
A tirade that a now-suspended Gloucester County special services teacher directed at 15-year-old Julio Artuz was caught on video. Artuz claims his cell phone video from October 11th proves that he was bullied by Stephen Roth in the classroom.
“He threatened me, said that he would beat me up, it was an everyday thing,” Artuz says.
The recording of a Cherry Hill special education teacher’s aide talking to Stuart Chaifetz’s’ autistic son Akian is equally disturbing. He secretly recorded what was happening in his son’s classroom, too.
“I saw the light leaving his eyes, and I did what I did out of desperation,” Chaifetz says.
Both joined New Jersey State Senator Diane Allen in Trenton on Thursday. Allen (R-Burlington County, in top photo) wants school district officials to conclude probes within two weeks, and if an allegation is founded, forward it straight to the education commissioner, who would then have a month to decide not only if a teacher is fired, but also loses his or her certificate to teach anywhere in the state.
“If we have somebody who’s bullying our children in our schools — an adult who’s doing this — that person should not be around children,” Allen said.
The teachers’ union doesn’t dispute that, but NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer (right) says the Allen bill goes too far.
“It would take away a teacher’s right under the law to due process,” he says. “They wouldn’t be able to appeal to a judge.”
He suggests binding arbitration which could be completed in 90 days. That’s part of a proposal that is also being considered.
And seven months after he was recorded by Artuz, Stephen Roth may be able to keep his teaching job. On Friday, a judge suspended him through June, took two years of raises and required that he take anger management classes. But the school district’s attorney, Michael DiPiero, says the board and superintendent still believe Mr. Roth should be fired. DiPiero says they will appeal the decision to the commissioner of education.