Teacher Stages Wrestling Match
A Queens elementary school teacher who orchestrated an impromptu wrestling match between two of his fourth-grade students also provided the boys with an excuse to explain their bruises to a school nurse, authorities said.
P.S. 65 teacher Joseph Gullotta and teacher’s aide Abraham Fox last week were pulled from their Ozone Park classroom after authorities learned of a January 28 incident involving two boys, ages 9 and 10, who were told to settle an argument with their fists.
Authorities said Gullotta and Fox instructed a girl in the classroom to lock the door before the boys started the impromptu fight. He then ordered the rest of his students to back up to give the boys room, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
The two boys came out swinging and began wrestling on the classroom floor. As the boys battled, the 10-year-old’s head slammed into the younger boy’s mouth, causing the 9-year-old to suffer a gash on his lip. The older boy suffered a bruise on his head, authorities said.
“When two fourth-graders became involved in a verbal dispute, their teacher allegedly told one of the students that he should ‘take it out’ on another student,” Brown said.
“When parents send their children off to school, their teachers have an obligation to provide a safe environment for them.”
Brown said Fox, 43, was in the classroom during the fight but he did nothing to break it up. Neither student was given an opportunity to visit the school nurse immediately following the fight, even though Fox believed the 9-year-old might need stitches to close his wound, Brown said.
When the fight ended, students were instructed to put their desks back in place and open their textbooks for two periods of instruction, authorities said. Only then did Gullotta let the younger boy visit the school nurse.
Before the boy visited the nurse, Gullotta gave him a cover story to explain his injury, authorities said. He instructed the boy to tell the nurse that he dropped a pencil and butted heads with another student who reached down to help him retrieve it.
The boy told the tale to the nurse and said the other boy was also injured, “a little”, authorities said. When the nurse sent the boy back to the classroom to get the 10-year-old, Gullotta allegedly told both boys to repeat the pencil story.
The incident was revealed when the parents of the 10-year-old overheard their son talking about the fight later that evening.
Gullotta and Fox were each charged with two counts of acting in a manner injurious to a child under 17. Each could face up to a year in prison, if convicted.
Fox was suspended without pay and Gullotta was reassigned to a Department of Education “rubber room”, authorities said.