John Rosi, the Gig Harbor area teacher at the center of a controversy involving a classroom bullying incident, has been maligned, his attorney says.
Hes been a teacher for all my kids and all the friends of my kids, said Bryan Hershman, Rosis lawyer and spokesman. Hes a very compassionate man, and he gives a damn about kids. Hes done a lot of good for a lot of kids.
Rosi taught at Kopachuck Middle School in the Peninsula School District for 14 years. He received a 10-day suspension without pay last year after school administrators discovered videos taken in his classroom Feb. 2. The clips show about a dozen students dragging an eighth-grade boy around a classroom, peeling off his socks, putting a sock in his mouth and covering him with overturned chairs. Rosi watches and joins in at times, wrestling with the boy and smiling at the cameras.
The boys parents shared the videos and records of the schools underlying investigation of the incident with The News Tribune last month. They also requested an investigation by the Pierce County Sheriffs office into possible criminal violations. That inquiry is ongoing.
At the time, Rosi, a longtime wrestling and soccer coach, characterized the incident as innocent horseplay, and said the boy was not harmed. He also said he had been tired that morning, and allowed the activity to go on longer than he should have.
News accounts prompted calls for Rosis termination, and questions from parents about the districts initial response. The district assigned Rosi to a different school as the school year was to begin. District leaders have since placed him on paid administrative leave.
Peninsula School Board members have not weighed in on the subject yet, but they could get an earful from the public at a meeting today.
Board President Jill Uddenberg could not be reached for comment. Vice President Matthew Wilkinson said Tuesday that he did not want to discuss the matter before the meeting.
It would be inappropriate to say anything without doing it at an open meeting, he said.
Last week, acting Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto said he recalled that the original decision on Rosis discipline was made by the School B oard, on the recommendation of then-Superintendent Terry Bouck.
Wilkinson said the board was briefed last school year on the matter, along with other employee issues, in an executive session. School boards usually hire and fire employees, but superintendents and other administrators traditionally handle employee discipline.
Hershman, a longtime local defense attorney, said he intends to defend Rosi if any criminal charges or other legal matters emerge. He added that he has known Rosi personally for years.
What I know personally about this man is nothing but good, Hershman said. Was it appropriate for this stuff to go on in class? If he had it to do over again, it wouldnt happen.
Hes being eviscerated in the press, and its not fair, Hershman added. This video has nothing to do with his teaching career. He is devastated that hes not in front of a class after almost two decades. I just wish people would take a second look at this circumstance and give him a second chance.
BOARD MEETS THURSDAYPeninsula School Board meets Thursday. The meeting includes time for public comment.
When: 6 p.m.
Where: District office, 14015 62nd Ave. N.W., Gig Harbor. (Adjacent to Purdy Elementary School.)