A Linwood teacher went on trial Friday for allegedly knocking down a sixth-grader’s chair, causing him to fall and hit his head.
Kimberly Peschi, 40,is charged with simple assault for the Feb. 9 incident.
Two teachers and two students testified in the first day of trial before Northfield Municipal Court Judge Timothy Maguire. The next day for trial is expected to be in early January.
Peschi said nothing as she walked over to the student — identified in court only as M.M. — put her leg up on the back of his chair and pulled down, causing him to fall back and hit his head, according to the witnesses’ testimony Friday.
“She said something along the lines of, ‘That’s why we do not lean back,'” former Belhaven Middle School teacher Ashley Popa said.
Peschi was on lunchroom duty Feb. 9, when she saw the student leaning back on his chair and walked over. Video shown to the witnesses on a laptop that could not be clearly viewed from the audience captured what happened next.
In cross-examination, defense attorney Robert Agre had the teachers look at portions of the video frame-by-frame, pointing out where each was, and asking about the fact that M.M. was leaning back on his chair.
“That’s a position a monitor would want to correct?” Agre asked Lauren Muffley, who was working at the school as a fill-in guidance counselor at the time.
She had been assigned lunchroom duty with Peschi. They were to watch the seventh-graders while Popa was on the sixth-grade side.
Fellow student J.M. put M.M.’s chair back on all four legs a couple of times, he said.
When asked if it was so that his friend wouldn’t get in trouble, he said it was.
Another student, A.M., was sitting at the same table as M.M. He said he saw Peschi reach her leg up.
“I think (M.M.) was doing an impression or something as he was leaning back,” the now-seventh-grader said. “I think he hit his head.”
He said he thought Peschi “said something like, you shouldn’t be leaning back like that.”
J.M. said the boy tried not to cry when he fell, but started to after he got back in the chair.
Muffley came over and took him out.
“We’re going to see a very purposeful act,” Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy said of the video in his opening remarks to the judge.
But Agre said that any injury was not intentional.
Peschi pleaded not guilty in April.
Agre told BreakingAC at the time: “I feel that what happened was an unfortunate accident and not a criminal offense.”