Joseph Gullotta, a Queens fourth grade elementary school teacher, and Abraham Fox, a teachers assistant, were arrested and arraigned in Queens County Criminal Court after it was alleged that the two adults encouraged and permitted a nine year old and ten year old to engage in a physical confrontation. Both men are charged with two counts of New York Penal Law 260.10(1), Endangering the Welfare of a Child.
According to the Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown:
“When two fourth graders became involved in a verbal dispute, their teacher allegedly told one of the students that he should ‘take it out’ on another student. When parents send their children off to school, their teachers have an obligation to provide a safe environment for them.”
Although not a battle between “Mad Max” and “Master Blaster” overseen by a post-apocalyptic Tina Turner, the young boys did hurt each other. One child suffered from a split lip and the other sustained bruising and swelling on his head.
The Queens County District Attorney’s Office press release details the incident further:
Two boys had a verbal altercation that escalated at the alleged encouragement of Mr. Gullotta. “When the two boys began grabbing each others’ arms and shoulders and wrestling, Gullotta allegedly told a female student to close the door and instructed the other students to back up. During the wrestling match, [the first boy’s] head struck [the second boy’s] mouth, resulting in a laceration and bleeding to [the first boy’s] lower lip and swelling and bruising to the top and back of [the second boy’s] head. It is further alleged that though Fox was present in the classroom during the incident he did not attempt to stop the two boys from wrestling nor did he offer them assistance after they were injured.
“It is additionally alleged that despite the students’ injuries and Fox’s observation that [the fist boy] might need stitches, neither Gullotta nor Fox offered either student an opportunity to go to the school nurse until two school periods later, at approximately 11:10 a.m., when Gullotta allowed [the first boy] to go alone to the nurse’s office. At that time, Gullotta allegedly instructed [the first boy] to tell the nurse that someone had dropped a pencil and that [the second boy’s] head accidently collided with [the first boy’s] mouth when they both bent down to pick up the pencil. As allegedly instructed, [the first boy] told the nurse the ‘pencil’ story and also voiced concern about his friend [the second boy] who complained that his head ached. It is alleged that the nurse told [the first boy] to go back to the classroom and get [the second boy]. This time, it is alleged, Gullotta escorted [the second boy] to the nurse’s office and instructed him to tell the same made-up story that he had told [the first boy].”
“The incident came to light when the parent of one of the students involved in the incident overheard them talking about it.”
As noted above, the defendants are charged with Endangering the Welfare of a Child, an “A” misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. According to New York Penal Law 260.10(1):
A person is guilty of Endangering the Welfare of a Child when he knowingly acts in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a child less than seventeen years old or directs or authorizes such child to engage in an occupation involving a substantial risk of danger to his life or health.
Although the two men are only charged with one count each for the two children involved in the alleged altercation, case law in New York dictates that the harm perpetrated by a defendant need not be directed at a particular child. Arguably, the defendants could face significantly more charges for the girl who was allegedly told to close the door of the classroom and for those that were “forced” to watch the incident. Previous entries address this issue (link 1 and link 2).
Regardless, despite the references made above a 1980s classic movie, if true, this incident is no joking matter and the defendants not only face real criminal consequences, but potential potential devastation to their respective careers. Saland Law PC is a criminal defense firm representing clients throughout the New York City. Founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors, the criminal defense attorneys at Saland Law PC utilize their experience on both sides of the criminal justice system to work zealously for their clients.