A teacher’s conviction of simple assault has been overturned by a judge after the video evidence was released to the public for the first time.
The 42-year-old teacher, Kimberly Peschi, was originally found guilty of simple assault in 2017, after she was accused of pulling a 12-year-old pupil’s chair backwards.
The incident occurred at Belhaven Middle School in Linwood, New Jersey. The sixth grade student was apparently leaning back on his chair in the school cafeteria, when Peschi reportedly kicked the chair back, causing the student to fall and hit his head.
You can watch the footage here:
The student was not severely injured, as MailOnline reports.
The security footage of the incident was shared by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office after a request for public records was made.
The video is blurred to protect the identity of students at the school, but Peschi’s movement towards the boy and his chair can be seen. She then makes a movement with her leg, before the chair moves and the boy falls backwards.
In May 2018, Northfield Municipal Judge Timothy Maguire found Peschi guilty of simple assault, saying the surveillance footage was the ‘strongest evidence of deliberate behaviour’ regarding the incident.
The teacher was ordered to pay around $200 in fines and court fees.
Peschi also had to forfeit her public employment for going ‘well beyond corrective behaviour’.
Now however, following an appeal from Peschi, Superior Court Judge John Rauh has overturned the decision, and revoked the order which requested the teacher to give up her job.
According to Judge Rauh, it was ‘plausible’ the teacher was trying to stabilise the chair, rather than kick it over.
The judge said:
Given the brief period of the time the whole incident took place, I am not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted purposely, knowingly or recklessly with regard to the injury to the child.
She certainly intended to put her foot on that chair, but the state of mind has to go to the injury to the child.
The mother of the pupil in the video, Michelle Tourigan, however, said she was ‘disgusted and hurt’ by the overruling.
The video does not lie. She assaulted my son.
Meanwhile, Peschi’s lawyer, Robert Agre, said the teacher was ‘greatly relieved’ by the judge’s decision, and because she was found not guilty, the state cannot appeal the new decision.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.