NORTHFIELD — A music teacher from Linwood must forfeit her public employment after acting recklessly and causing injury to a student, a judge ruled Friday.
Municipal Judge Louis Belasco said Kimberley Peschi, 41, of Galloway Township, “went well beyond corrective behavior” when she kicked down a chair as a sixth-grade student was leaning back in it, causing him to fall and hit his head on the cafeteria floor Feb. 9, 2017.
Peschi was escorted quickly from the courtroom after the judge’s ruling by her attorney Robert Agre. She has 20 days to file an appeal, which Agre said she would do.
“I was disappointed. I felt that based upon one isolated incident ... that she should have been allowed to retain public employment,” Agre said in a phone call after the court appearance.
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The victim’s mother, Michele Tourigian, was present at the courthouse for the judge’s ruling and said she was relieved by Belasco’s decision.
“I think the judge was very thorough,” Tourigian said. “I’m just happy it’s over.”
She said her son, who is now in eighth grade, would also be happy to hear Peschi would not be returning to the classroom.
“The biggest thing for me was she did what she did and there was no remorse. She never said, ‘Are you OK,’” Tourigian said. “I don’t think any parent in Linwood would be comfortable if Ms. Peschi was still teaching, if they saw the video.”
Peschi was found guilty in May by Municipal Judge Timothy P. Maguire of simple assault and ordered to pay about $200 in fines and court fees, but the forfeiture of her position was still being deliberated at the request of Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy. Levy did not attend the court appearance Friday.
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Peschi was a music teacher at the Belhaven School in Linwood at the time of the incident and was suspended. The charges were pursued by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office but heard before a Northfield municipal judge in a trial that began in December.
In April 2017, the Linwood Board of Education filed tenure charges with the state against Peschi.
“As a district, we agree with the ruling and will be moving forward. We will work expeditiously to fill the position so that we may continue to provide a quality education for the children of Linwood,” Linwood Superintendent Brian Pruitt wrote in an email after the hearing.
Agre said that if the tenure charges go forward and her teaching certificate is revoked, Peschi will not be able to teach in the state of New Jersey. However, he said that if the state does not revoke her certificate, she could still teach in private school.
Concerning Peschi’s pension, Agre said he believes it will be unaffected by the judge’s decision.