When the Teacher Is The Bully: Mom Talk

Veteran teacher John Rosi put a 13-year-old student in a headlock.

When I was in fifth grade, I changed schools mid-year. In my new reading class, our teacher, Miss Theodore, picked on one little girl named Maryann every day.

Picked on is an understatement. The teacher was relentless—and mean! It seemed like a vendetta. I remember feeling embarrassed, and even maybe ashamed.

I was the new kid, and was shocked that all the others seemed to think it was normal for this teacher to verbally abuse this poor little girl day in and day out. In fact, some days, she spent most of the hour complaining about how stupid Maryann was. Those days, not much teaching was going on.

For the entire year, 40 kids listened to a teacher beat up on poor Maryann. It became so commonplace that we learned that it was OK.

I can only imagine that is how the 13-year-old boy felt when his teacher participated in him getting dragged around his Kopachuck Middle School classroom in Gig Harbor, Washington. He was videotaped getting a sock shoved in his mouth, and chairs stacked on top of him. In some parts of the video the boy reportedly was trying to laugh and go along.

How could he not? At 13, we do not have the maturity to say "you're hurting my feelings." That's doubly true if you're a boy. His only recourse was to pretend it didn't bother him.

The teacher, John Rosi, who has been an educator for 18 years, opted for a suspension in order to save his job. Then when the other kids learned of Rosi's suspension, they blamed the victim. The little boy wanted to kill himself because he couldn't bear going back to school, his mom reportedly said.

Shame on you, John Rosi. Your claim that you didn't think it was bullying doesn't wash. The videotape shows Rosi putting the boy in a headlock and driving his head into the ground. Teacher also lifted a boy up by the ankles. Is there any surprise that the other children mimmicked the same behavior?

After 18 years, you should have known better. You've officially made it on my "deserves a smack" list.

One of many problems with bullying, and other forms of verbal abuse, is that the victim eventually starts to believe the nay-saying. If a person is constantly being told she is dumb or stupid, she is going to believe it. To this day, I can't imagine how Maryann must have carried that abuse with her—back then, and likely still today.

Abuse begets abuse. Bullying begets bullying. If we get bullied, we are likely to bully others.

Children need to be protected. And yes, a 13-year-old boy is still a child. He deserved protection from his teacher. The fact that the district lets the teacher continue is equally shameful.

John Rosi, your goal as the adult was to protect your students. That is a task that you failed at miserably.

Kent Frederick September 05, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Jeanne, First of all, if you have 2 working parents, who is going to home school the kids? You would simply be forcing parents to hire a nanny who could also tutor. Second, I enjoy the 6 hours and 25 minutes that my child is in school. Third, I just don't have the patience to teach young children. I'm not sure that I have the patience to teach college students. So, why should I have to teach my child reading, math, grammar, and such, and get extremely frustrated, when there are people who want to do that for a career?
Jamie Martin September 05, 2012 at 04:34 PM
What a horrifying story! I couldn't imagine what I would do if that was my child. Without question, the teacher should be fired. The kids should have been suspended.
John S September 05, 2012 at 05:00 PM
That is complete bull LMS and you know it. You can get a long way with the term "unfair". Is it fair to the students to have a teacher who abuses them? Why wasn't this guy fired if it is so easy? Go crawl back under your union umbrella.
Martin September 05, 2012 at 05:12 PM
The teacher and school are open to major laws suits. Opted for suspension ro save his job? No way. Fire him and charge him with bullying. Kids that do the same thing are kicked out of school. Set an example that those in power are held to a higher standard.
J. Ann September 05, 2012 at 05:27 PM
I drove a bus for a middle school in Shorewood, Illinois where the asst. principal and the transportation director defended the one of the school's notorious bully constantly (he was on my bus for TWO YEARS before being expelled), and they unsuccessfully tried to pull it with me, too. I stuck it out, and when I finally left at the end of the year, word got back to me that they did not renew the transportation directors contract---a wise decision, and well worth the hell I went through to expose her. Bottom line--no child or adult need put up with such rotten behavior!
Dori September 05, 2012 at 05:31 PM
A teacher's job is to inspire and motivate kids to love learning new things - not degrade them and laugh while other CHILDREN do it too! Not only should this guy be fired, he should be shamed - make him walk the US with a sign that he 'encouraged a hateful, judgmental atmosphere in a learning environment' and see how much he enjoys bullying!! I know I would throw a tomato at him :) District 308 has at least one teacher I know of that should work in a state prison and not an elementary school. Those who have had to deal with this person know who I am talking about. There have been at least a couple young folks in our community who would rather off themselves than go back. Thankfully, my child did not want to go that far, but she also HATED school for that year. Was great before and has been great since :)
The Sentinel September 05, 2012 at 05:44 PM
C'mon John. Everyone's entitled to their opinion and their right to state it. But I think if you read LMS comment, you'll see that he/she is right about the union. You'll also see that he/she states that if the that IF administrators do their jobs, teachers CAN be fired, union or not. I have never been a fan of unions but in this case, it's MY opinion that LMS made an exztremely fair comment. If this topic had been about the CTU, I'd have been a LOT more anti-union.
Al Bezek September 05, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Interesting. I could not find anything regarding what the child may have done to warrant such a response. You all make sound like there are no disruptive or disrespectful kids attending school?! Trachers got enough on they're hands besides disruptive kids. Maybe the other students were supportive of the instructor because the kid in question was spoiled, disruptive, and a bully himself. Note: I'm not a teacher.
The Sentinel September 05, 2012 at 07:07 PM
"You all make it sound like there are no disruptive or disrespectful kids..."? Huh? We ALL know there are plenty of disruptive and disrectful kids. But the bottom line is still there is NO cause for a teacher to lay a hand on a student, period, unless it's to save the lives of the teacher and/or other students. Especially to put one in a headlock, This teacher should still hae been fired and the students should have been punished. If the kid who was bullied WAS disruptive and/or a bully, it would have come out in the news reports, believe me. But you are right in one respect...the video starts AFTER the disruption was already in progress so we do not know what led to it all happening.
H.I. McDunnough September 05, 2012 at 07:36 PM
If it's all the same to you, Honey, I think I'll skip this little get together, slip out with the boys and knock back a couple of Coca Colas.
The Sentinel September 05, 2012 at 07:54 PM
H.J., did you mean to put this on the cartoon caption page?
JGMB September 05, 2012 at 08:19 PM
A. Bezek, please don't blame the victim here. Yes, there definitely are children who are disruptive or spoiled, but that should NEVER be an excuse for the treatment that this boy received in the video. I'm sure that the school disciplinary code didn't include the option of dragging a child around by his ankles, stuffing a sock in his mouth and piling chairs on top of him.
Katie A September 05, 2012 at 08:54 PM
I don't think it takes anywhere near 18 years of teaching to know that you should never abuse a student. All it takes is one ounce of common sense. That guy shouldn't have even had the option of suspension; he should have been fired immediately. Nothing excuses that kind of behavior. All these PSAs against bullying, and the teacher gets off scot free? Maybe he doesn't want to call it bullying, we can go with the more appropriate term, abuse, if he prefers.
LMS September 05, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Administrators monitor quality of teaching staff. Union representation can aid union members during due process. Teachers can be, and are, fired for abuse and incompetence. Tenure can makes that difficult, especially if administration hasn't been diligent with documentation and evaluations. A strong case could be made against the necessity of tenure in the modern working world, but it's still true that tenured teachers can be and are fired for abuse and/or incompetence. None of that adds up to, "Unions are a big part of the problem," but I understand you're going to want to shoot back a comment demonizing unions. Let's agree to disagree and not derail the original topic.
Deb September 05, 2012 at 11:20 PM
My son was bullied when he was in 7th grade. This completely changed his path in school and now struggles to this day. It's a sad sad time now that teachers feel the need to bully kids. But for all the bad ones, there ARE teachers out there who are awesome. My son had one in 8th grade who made it her mission to try to turn things around for him........
Karen September 06, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Not that i am aware of or even expected. After my meeting with the principal, i had explained to her that my daughter had never had any history of behavioral issues or academic issues and what we were experiencing was very concerning. I had never needed a special meeting with any teacher or principal in the past and was not the type of parent that runs up "crying" after every complaint of my child. The principal at the time stood behind the teacher and told me basically that i needed to "let go" and that the 5th grade was a transitional time for these children and time for them to grow up. I fully agree the children need to be responsible, however, i disagree with the negative practices this particular teacher displayed on a regular basis. I believe more positive reinforcement is needed, not signing a "Book of Doom" in front of an entire class helps the children to understand or work on what needs to be worked on. The principal at the time was not understanding and really just covering the teacher. It was a shame the teacher did not attend this meeting, furthermore, it was very disappointing to know the principal did not have the child's best interest at hand.
The Sentinel September 06, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Thanks for the reply, Karen. I kind of figured that would be the answer but wasn't sure. The principal was a part of the problem. Any good administrator would have heard you and, at least, investigated with the teacher. "Letting go" certainly wasn't the answer. I'm glad that your daughter has moved on and enjoys the 8th grade in spite of her 5th grade experience. Good luck to her and be well.
R D H September 06, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Since the kids have to comply with the districts Code of Conduct policy, shouldn't the teachers? Do the teachers even have a Code of Conduct policy? I'd like to see them sign something stating they've read it and comply as well.
Lenny Kravitz September 06, 2012 at 02:40 PM
There is an easy fix: send your kid to school with a micro digital recorder. There are tiny pen models or even just a good old Sanza Cruz. Unfortunately, Illinois has the most arcane wiretapping laws in the country, and the evidence won't be admissible, but at least YOU will know what is going on. You've seen it from coaches on the ball field, bus drivers and even Bible School. If I find out a teacher is messing with MY kid, I'll skip the principle and the Union process and go straight for the kneecaps.
lala September 06, 2012 at 02:57 PM
"I could not find anything regarding what the child may have done to warrant such a response." There is NOTHING the child could have done to deserve this. If the teacher has a problem with a child bullying, there are resources she can turn to. The child can also be transferred to a school that deals with behavior disorders. NO teacher or staff member has a right to treat any child with nothing more than the utmost respect. My son had a teacher that would belittle the kids when they asked her a math question. She would repsond with, "I just told you how to do that or I don't have time or that's not important." I taught my child to tell her in a respectful way that he needed her help. After all, that is what she is being paid to do. Shame on the school principals and administrators that don't have the balls to write the crappy teachers up and get rid of them. A union can't do much if everything is documented.
lala September 06, 2012 at 02:59 PM
I wish a teacher would pick on my kid or put them in a head lock. I would be in the superintendents face in no time.
Edward Andrysiak September 06, 2012 at 03:15 PM
LMS you did an artful job of mulling the answer to my question. I asked if administrators are union. Could you give me a simple yes or no answer to that question please? Your response *could* lead one to believe that they infact are union or, they can rely on others for assistance who are union. Are adm folks union...yes or no. Thanks
LMS September 06, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Yes. The rest of the "Are administrators union?" answer is complicated, and varies from state to state. Google it if you're interested. That answer has nothing to do with the topic at hand. I didn't mull the answer to your question, I just assumed you already knew it was "yes" and were belligerently asserting that the answer "yes" meant something. It doesn't, and I'm not fond of wasting my time. There are many articles on the internet about how all of the varied school personnel unions in each of the states function. Educate yourself on your own time if you'd like. Or just keep repeating empty, uninformed anti-union rhetoric. I know from past threads that you like to chest-thump on the Patch. I don't, so I'll leave you to it. Bottom line: If administrators diligently document and evaluate, teachers can be and are fired. If criminal acts occur the teacher will be immediately terminated and subject to legal action. If parents want to jump-start the documentation process of a teacher they feel is incompetent they should always put their concerns in writing, with e-mail being an excellent choice. Too many words? This might work better for you: Are adm folks union? Yes.
Lisa September 06, 2012 at 08:20 PM
It just doesn't happen in fifth grade. My son last year was bullied by his driving teacher. The teacher swore and continuled to ask my son if he thought he was gay. My son didn't want to go to school at all. My son is a quiet boy and that teacher has ruined the only thing that teens look forward to. My son won't drive and has no desire to get his license. The school did not do anything about it!! The schools should give the teachers a class on bully the students and the effect it has on them. There should be a no bully rule for teachers!!!
Maggie Anderson September 07, 2012 at 04:00 AM
It is my understanding that there was NO punishment for the students...not even phone calls home, let alone detention or suspension. Ridiculous and appalling!
Maggie Anderson September 07, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Admin is not part of the union. They have their own "protection" but cannot be part of the teachers union, nor attend union meetings, since they are the people who evaluate teachers. This is in WA State, but it is likely true elsewhere, too.
Maggie Anderson September 07, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Even if this kid was disruptive, a teacher is supposed to be there to manage the classroom, and unless a child needs to be restrained or assisted medically, there must be a very valid reason for any physical contact. Not to mention the fact that the behavior of all of the students should have been stopped long before it got to this point. If the kid is shown in the video "going at" the teacher or laughing, who wouldn't, at that age, react that way...if nothing else, to "save face"? It is kinda like when you fall down, and it hurts so much (physically and in terms of pride), but you laugh...when all you really want to do is cry... I feel awful for this kid and his family.
Karen September 08, 2012 at 01:59 AM
The Sentinel, Thank you for the well wishes, much appreciated. Same to you.
John Spasojevich September 08, 2012 at 07:49 PM
If you think back on your time in school, especially if you are over say 45 years old, there was a lot that the teacher said and did that was not only accepted by the system but also by the parents that would have a teacher fired or in jail today. My 7th grade teacher ( 1976) was fond of throwing erasers at kids and he had a pinky ring with a large stone which he would rotate around and slap the back of your head with. Now the desks were in groups of 4 and typically it was thrown if you were talking or not paying attention and usually flew over your head and hit the wall. The ring was the next step if you were not motivated by the flying eraser.
Jeri September 08, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Yes these are people that we can not get rid of. These are the people the unions work for. These are the people that NEED unions. These are the people that fear the administration for good reason, and pass out fear to their co-workers that are doing a good job. This whole union, teacher tenure, and unsustainable pensions needs a weed whacker taken to it, that can allow good teachers to teach and be rewarded appropriately.


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