Teacher Who Bullied Special Needs Student Faces Disciplinary Action

Julio Artuz says he was bullied by his teacher, Steven Roth, in class.

November 16, 2011, 6:04 PM

Nov. 17, 2011— -- A New Jersey teacher caught belittling a special-needs student on tape, now faces disciplinary action, the school district superintendent told ABCNews.com today.

On the tape, teacher Steven Roth can be heard calling 15-year-old student Julio Artuz a "tard" and saying "I will kick your a** from here to kingdom come." Julio filmed the incident on his cell phone during class.

After an executive session held Wednesday, "the Board of Education voted to enact disciplinary action against the teacher," Gloucester County Special Services District Superintendent Michael Dicken said.

Roth, who was identified by Artuz's family, is currently on paid administrative leave from Bankbridge Regional School in Gloucester County, N.J.

"We are following the statutes of the state of New Jersey," school board member Leona Mather told ABCNews.com. "When something like this comes up, believe me, we take this very, very seriously."

The teacher will be notified about the school board's decision by their attorney, Mather said.

"We did say to please make this happen today," she added.

Until then, superintendent Dicken says the board cannot comment on what specific disciplinary action they are taking.

Roth could not be reached for comment by ABCNews.com.

The incident has tarnished the school district, Mather said.

"It's not an easy thing for the board to see," she said. "We pride ourselves in the education of special needs children. We have a superb teaching staff, we have public recognition all the time. It's a wonderful district, I'm very proud to be associated with it."

Student Julio Artuz Belittled in Class

When Julio told his parents he was being bullied by his special-needs teacher, they were initially skeptical.

"Any kid exaggerates," said his mother, Joyce McCormick-Artuz. "It's normal adolescent behavior."

Her son, who has ADHD and emotional issues, had been complaining since the beginning of the school year that his teacher was bullying him, she said. So Julio's father finally asked for proof.

"I told him, 'If this happens again, I give you permission to take your cell phone to school and videotape it,'" said Julio Artuz, who shares the same name as his son.

On Oct. 24, the younger Julio did just that.

On the video, Julio asked the teacher several time to stop calling him "special," provoking an outburst from Roth.

"It all started because my son questioned why [the teacher] was telling [another kid in class] to quit school," said McCormick-Artuz.

Roth responded, "What? Oh my God. F***ing-- ... What does the title on the front of that school say? '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!"

Artuz's mother, McCormick-Artuz, told ABC News she is "appalled" after watching the footage.

"Teachers are supposed to build students up and build their self esteem, not rip it down," she said. "You don't scream at them ... degrade and threaten."

During the video, which lasts nearly 10 minutes, the teacher also seemingly resorts to physical intimidation, walking up to Artuz and standing directly in front of him.

"You said when you get out of school you're going to 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 going to do something?"

Julio answered: "I said when I get out of this school -- what you going to say then?"

"There ain't going to be nothing you're going to ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever do," said Roth.

Artuz, Julio's father, told ABCNews.com the teacher assumed his son was making a threat. In reality, he said, the boy was referring to the day when he would attend a "normal" high school, instead of one that caters to special-needs students.

"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," Roth said. "What are you going to do? Get a chopper and chop me?"

At one point, the teacher asked Julio, "Who cares that you're special?"

"No one," Julio replied quietly.

"Nobody, dude," the teacher affirmed.

Roth has been at the school for eight years, according to Julio's mother

"I'm just appalled," said McCormick-Artuz. "I'm sickened and appalled."

New Jersey Teen Films Teacher's Rant

David Arnold, a Pennsylvania lawyer who has been representing the families of special needs children for the past decade, told ABCNews.com, "What went on there was disturbing on every level."

Not only was Julio "an especially vulnerable individual," the other students in the classroom had to witness the teacher's outburst, which implied "the way to resolve problems is to yell at people and threaten people. ... That's not what we want public schools teaching," Arnold said.Now Julio's mother, McCormick-Artuz, wants the school to take action.

"If they're charging this much of our taxpayer money, why can't they stick cameras in these classrooms instead of the hallways to protect children?" she asked.

Cameras would serve an added benefit, she said, because teachers would also be protected if students at the special-needs school ever tried to threaten them.

Artuz's parents said they had received positive progress reports about their son this year, and they thought he was having a relatively positive experience in school -- until they saw the video.

She and her husband told ABCNews.com they showed the video to the school's principal.

"He didn't even want to look at it, at all," said McCormick-Artuz. "He tried to make excuses."

Roth, who McCormick-Artuz said was present at the meeting, "had the smuggest look on his face," she said.

"He said, 'I've got to stand up for myself. These kids are hard kids,'" she added.

He also allegedly told Julio's parents he had "a bad morning with my wife," according to McCormick-Artuz.

"I lost my mind," she said. "How can you be a teacher?"

After the incident happened in October, Julio Artuz's parents said their son was bullied by other students, so they pulled their son out of the Gloucester County Special Services school district last week and are looking for a private school.

"It's not just about my son now," the father said. "It's about what's happening to these other kids who can't speak out for themselves."

The attorney representing the Artuz family, Scott McKinley, told ABCNews.com: "I can tell you, at this point, our primary concern is getting out the word as fast as we can so other children who feel they may be being verbally and physically abused in their schools will have the courage to come forward and report that right away. We're hearing a lot of about physical abuse today, but verbal abuse can be equally damaging."

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