Another special education teacher has been caught on tape bullying a student with disabilities. 15-year-old Julio Artuz, who has ADHD and emotional issues, had been telling his parents since the school year started that his teacher at Bankbridge Regional School in southern New Jersey was bullying him. His mother, Joyce McCormick-Artuz, thought he was exaggerating, until her son showed her a cell phone video he’d made in which the teacher, identified by the family as Steven Roth, was verbally abusing Julio in October.
The teacher even labeled Julio a “tard.”
A transcript of what Roth said leaves me, as the parent of a teenage boy in special education, asking what he was doing teaching special education students and teaching, period.
On the video, Julio asked the teacher to stop calling him “special” several times, provoking an outburst from Roth, who could not immediately be reached for comment.
“What? Oh my God. F***ing– … What does the title on the front of that school say?” Roth asked. “Special education.”
“Don’t call me special,” Julio said again.
“What would you like me to call you, Jules?”
“Normal! Just don’t call me special,” Julio said.
“Tard,” Roth responded. “You want me to call you normal and you don’t even know what it is!”
The video also seems to show Roth physically intimidating Julio, as the teacher walked up to the student and stood right in front of him. In the next exchange, Julio had seemed to be referring to a time when he no longer would need to be in a separate school for special education students. But Roth seems to have taken Julio’s words to mean otherwise.
“You said when you get out of school you’re gonna do something,” Roth said. “What are you going to do?”
“No, I didn’t. Get out of my face!” Julio said.
“You didn’t say that?” Roth asked. “You didn’t say when you get out of school you’re gonna do something?”
Julio answered: “I said when I get out of this school — what you gonna say then?”
“There ain’t gonna be nothing you’re gonna ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever do,” said Roth.
Roth not only denigrated Julio’s abilities, but then said something even more disturbing, if that’s possible.
“I will kick your a** from here to kingdom come until I’m 80 years old. You’ll never be able to beat me, dude. What are you gonna do? Get a chopper and chop me?”
Julio’s mother says that Roth, who had been working at the school for eight years, has been suspended with pay. After the incident in October, Julio was bullied by other students and, as of last week, his parents have taken him out of the the Gloucester County Special Services school district and are searching for a private school.
Prior to this, at a meeting with Roth and the school’s principal, McCormick-Artuz said that Roth again spoke in disturbing ways about teaching special ed students (“I’ve got to stand up for myself — these kids are hard kids,” Roth said). The principal avoided looking at the video and just “tried to make excuses.”
What’s even more appalling about Julio’s treatment and the teacher’s and the Gloucester County Special Service school district’s inadequate response is that this school year started with New Jersey passing what has been touted as a very tough anti-bullying law. The law mandates a strict timetable for school staff to report allegations of bullying — this must be done within one day – and yet here’s a too-clear instance of a teacher bullying, verbally abusing and even mocking one of his students, and a student with disabilities. It’s a sad state we’re in if we have to create anti-bullying legislation not only for students, but for school staff and teachers.
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