Linwood teacher pleads not guilty in student assault
Updated: May 8
A Linwood teacher pleaded not guilty in Northfield Municipal Court to cruelty and neglect of children and simple assault charges. Kimberley Peschi, 40, of Galloway Township, is accused of kicking the chair out from under a sixth-grader at Belhaven Middle School, causing him to fall and hit his head. The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office is handling the case, but it is being prosecuted in Municipal Court per a decision made by Prosecutor Damon Tyner in March. Tenure charges have been filed against Peschi, who is now suspended without pay. “At least finally she’s not getting paid,” attorney Tom Reynolds, who is representing the family, said outside the courtroom Wednesday. “We want to make sure she’s never teaching children again.”
Peschi did not speak during the brief arraignment Wednesday, nor did she comment to reporters. When a photographer took her picture as she entered the courtroom, she approached him and asked, “Do you have children?” She then asked that he “keep that in mind.” Haddonfield defense attorney Robert Agre told the judge he would be filing two motions seeking a review of files to see what can be released, including from an investigation done by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, formerly referred to as DYFS. The boy’s mother said she is glad to see the case moving forward, and that action is being taken against the teacher. Both sides have seen video of the incident, captured by the school’s surveillance cameras. The boy’s mother has called it “compelling.” It shows the inside of the lunchroom at about noon Feb. 9, with Peschi talking to two other teachers, the boy’s mother said. Peschi then sees the 12-year-old about 20 feet away, sitting at his lunch table and rocking back and forth on his chair. She doesn’t speak as she walks across the room and kicks the back of the boy’s chair, causing him to fall to the ground, the mother said of the video. She said she watched it more than once, looking for something that may have sparked Peschi’s reaction. The student had Peschi as a music teacher in fifth grade, but had no issues. He got an A in the class, his mother said. Municipal Court Judge Timothy Maguire gave Agre until May 1 to file his motions. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy said he likely would not have a response to those two motions. No further court dates have been set. If convicted, Peschi could face as long as six months in jail, but imprisonment is unlikely for a first offense of this degree.