Moment teacher is seen kicking student’s chair – as judge OVERTURNS her conviction for assault

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A grainy video at the center of a now-overturned conviction of a New Jersey middle school teacher for allegedly kicking a chair out from under a student was released to the public for the first time on Monday.   

Kimberley Peschi, 42, of Galloway, was originally found guilty of simple assault after she was accused of pulling a 12-year-old student’s chair backwards at Belhaven Middle School in Linwood in 2017.

The sixth-grader, whom she was supervising during lunch in the cafeteria, had been leaning back in the chair when Peschi kicked the legs out from the chair, causing him to fall and hit his head on the floor. 

The boy was not severely injured. 

Security camera footage of the incident was released by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office after a public records request. 

In the video, which is less than 20 seconds long and blurred to conceal the faces of students, Peschi’s contact with the boy is brief and hard to make out. 

Peschi can be seen walking across the room towards the student, wearing a lilac cardigan. She lifts her right leg and kicks out at his chair. 

The child can be seen toppling over before getting back up. The teacher walks away.

Northfield Municipal Judge Timothy Maguire found the music teacher guilty of simple assault in May 2018 and said the surveillance footage was the strongest evidence of deliberate behavior in the incident.  

He directed her to pay about $200 in fines and court fees. 

The teacher was also ordered to forfeit her public employment in the fall of last year for going ‘well beyond corrective behavior’.   

But following an appeal by Peschi, Superior Court Judge John Rauh overturned the guilty verdict on May 3 this year and took the order requiring her to forfeit her teaching license off the table.

Rauh said that, after looking at the video, Peschi’s claim that she was trying to stabilize the chair was ‘plausible’, according to The Press of Atlantic City. 

‘Given the brief period of the time the whole incident took place, I am not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted purposely, knowingly or recklessly with regard to the injury to the child,’ Rauh said. 

‘She certainly intended to put her foot on that chair, but the state of mind has to go to the injury to the child.’ 

Peschi’s lawyer, Robert Agre, said she was ‘greatly relieved’ by his Rauh’s decision, adding that because she was found not guilty, the state cannot appeal it.  

The mother of the now eighth-grader, Michele Tourigian, said she was ‘disgusted and hurt’ by the ruling.   

‘The video does not lie. She assaulted my son,’ she said.  

Peschi’s attorney, Robert Agre, expressed surprise that the video was released on Monday, saying it was under a confidentiality order by the municipal court, since it shows children. 

‘The consent order does not address release of even a redacted version of the security video,’ Agre said Monday.   

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