Tuesday, February 2, 2010

WrestleMania IV! Queens Teacher Makes Fourth-Graders at Public School 65 Grapple in Class by Thomas Zambito - NY Daily News

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This wasn't WrestleMania 25, but a Queens teacher and aide are in hot water for orchestrating wrestling contest between students. Olive/Getty

It was the fourth-grade version of a steel-cage match - with teachers playing referee and children seeing their classmates bloodied.

A Queens teacher and an aide orchestrated a sick wrestling contest between students in a locked classroom, prosecutors charged Monday.

Joseph Gullotta and Abraham Fox were charged with child endangerment and yanked out of the classroom they allegedly transformed into a gladiator arena.

The incident happened Thursday, after 10-year-old Tomas Rivera got into an argument with a classmate at Public School 65 in Ozone Park, officials said.

Gullotta suggested that instead of taking out his anger on his nemesis, Tomas should wrestle another classmate, Justin Stokel, 9, authorities say. A girl in the class was told to shut the door, and students were told to stand at a safe distance as the mini-grapplers got ready to rumble.

"Everybody in my class was laughing," said Jonathan Michael, a fourth-grader. "They were fighting over some pencils, and they were bleeding."

During the wrestling match, Tomas' head struck Justin's mouth. Justin had a cut lip, and Tomas' head was swollen and badly bruised. Officials said Fox warned Gullotta that Justin might need stitches, but both men barred the boys from going to the nurse for almost two hours - then told them to lie about what had happened.

School officials learned about the bizarre brawl when a parent of one of the combatants overheard him talking about it.

Gullotta, 29, was sent to a teacher reassignment center - a so-called "rubber room" - and Fox, 43, was suspended without pay, said Education Department spokeswoman Margie Feinberg.

Their lawyer declined to comment, and they declined to speak to a reporter at their homes on Long Island. The boys involved could not be reached.

"When parents send their children off to school, their teachers have an obligation to provide a safe environment for them," said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.


With Michael J. Feeney and Leigh Remizowski