Kimberley Peschi

Kimberley Peschi, 42, of Galloway Township, was found guilty of simple assault in Northfield Municipal Court in 2018 and ordered to forfeit her teaching license, but last month that ruling was overturned on appeal.

MAYS LANDING — The lawyer for a former Linwood music teacher convicted of simple assault of a student last year argued during an appeal hearing Tuesday morning the teacher was “acting reflexively.”

Kimberley Peschi, 42, of Galloway Township, was found guilty last year of kicking a chair as a sixth-grade Belhaven Middle School student leaned back in it, causing him to fall and hit his head in February 2017. She appeared in Atlantic County Superior Court to appeal the conviction, as well as the forfeiture of her job as a public school teacher.

“She acknowledged that had she to do it all over again, she probably would not have used her foot in an attempt to upright the chair, but, as she indicated, her decision was entirely reflexive,” said Peschi’s attorney, Robert Agre.

Peschi, who did not speak during the appearance before Judge John Rauh, wiped tears from her eyes as Agre spoke.

Assistant Prosecutor John Santoliquido argued the kick was “clearly deliberate conduct,” citing surveillance footage from the cafeteria.

“To witness that video is to find the defendant guilty of simple assault against the victim,” he said, adding that the student, identified in court as M.M., suffered from headaches as a result.

Peschi shook her head as Santoliquido laid out his argument, which included asking the judge to uphold the forfeiture of Peschi’s public employment.

“This is not to say that the defendant is a bad person,” he said. “This is not to say that she is likely to re-offend, but it simply gives pause that there was no apparent explanation for what she did, and it’s a significant concern to the state.”

Agre argued the forfeiture of Peschi’s job, which she held for 18 years, was “entirely draconian” and “far in excess of the offense,” barring her from teaching at any public school in the state.

However, Santoliquido said the forfeiture applied only to her job at Belhaven.

Peschi was suspended after the incident, and 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 2017.

She was making $80,723 per year as a teacher, public salary data show.

Municipal Judge Timothy P. Maguire found Peschi guilty of simple assault in May 2018 and ordered her to pay about $200 in fines and court fees. Then, in September, Municipal Judge Louis Belasco decided Peschi must forfeit her public employment, saying she “went well beyond corrective behavior.”

Rauh said he would have a written decision within the next 30 days.

Contact: 609-272-7241 Twitter @ACPressMollyB

Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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