Eight Teacher Meltdowns Caught on Tape

Teacher caught threatening special needs student may not lose job.

ByABC News
May 30, 2012, 11:09 AM

May 31, 2012— -- A New Jersey teacher caught on tape threatening a special needs student may not lose his job after all. Julio Artuz, a 15-year-old New Jersey special needs student, recorded his teacher, Steven Roth, telling him he would "kick your a** from here to kingdom come," last October.

Roth, who has tenure, was suspended without pay pending a judge's decision on the district's wish to terminate him. But on May 11 the judge recommended the teacher be reinstated at the beginning of this next school year. A lawyer for the Gloucester County Special Services School District said he would file exceptions to this recommendation, saying "The Board and the Superintendent believe that the only appropriate penalty for the shocking conduct perpetrated by Mr. Roth in this incident is termination."

The acting New Jersey commissioner of education will make the final decision.

A lawyer for Roth did not immediately return a call for comment.

Julio changed schools after the incident. He has said he misses his friends and copes with bouts of depression.

"Everything that my son worked for has just been cut off, back to square one," Julio Artuz, Sr., the teen's father, told "20/20." "That's not right." (Watch the video here.)

Watch the full story on "20/20: Payback" online.

Roth isn't the first teacher to be caught on tape acting classless in the classroom ... and with tech-savvy kids wielding cell phones and other gadgets at school, he likely won't be the last. A number of videos depicting teacher misbehavior have gone viral on YouTube and made headlines across the country.

Charles Fay, Ph.D., a child psychologist and consultant whose company Love and Logic works with educators, said some teachers -- particularly special needs teachers -- are vulnerable to losing self-control.

"They have the hardest job in the world. They are dealing with kids that have been hurt. They are dealing with kids with special neurological issues. They are dealing with a whole host of baggage this kid, these kids bring in every day," he said.

"By and large, they are doing a fabulous job. But if you don't have the skills, or if you don't have the right attitudes, that's going to wear on you like water torture," Fay said.

Experts say teachers aren't always to blame: students sometimes provoke teachers on purpose just so they can record ensuing tantrums and post them online later. It's called "cyberbaiting" and can result in devastating consequences -- including job loss -- for the teacher.

Here is a sampling of seven other cases of teachers caught on tape.

Autistic Boy Called 'Bastard'

In February, a New Jersey dad who suspected something was "horrifyingly wrong" at school when his autistic son began acting violently had the boy wear a digital recorder and discovered teachers verbally abusing him.

Stuart Chaifetz, 44, described his 10-year-old son Akian as a "sweet and gentle child" with a penchant for acrobatics and a deep bond with his three dogs.

So Chaifetz said it was totally out of character when he began receiving reports from Horace Mann Elementary School that Akian was hitting his teacher and a teacher's aide.

That's when Chaifetz turned to the digital recorder.

"When I listened to what they had done to him, I just shattered inside," Chaifetz said.

Chaifetz heard the teacher and aide calling Akian names including "bastard," making fun of him, yelling at him and having inappropriate conversations in front of the children.

Chaifetz took the audio to school officials, who immediately fired one of the aides. "The problem is that they didn't fire the teacher because of tenure and she was moved to another school," Chaifetz said.

Outraged, Chaifetz posted a video on YouTube called "Teacher/Bully: How My Son Was Humiliated and Tormented by his Teacher and Aide" on April 20. The video now has more than 4,515,256 hits and counting.

In a written statement, Cherry Hill School District Board of Education president Seth Klukoff wrote,"We strongly believe that the district acted swiftly, appropriately and judiciously with regard to the staff in the classroom."

The district later released a second statement saying that it was investigating the incident and that "all individuals working in the classroom on the date in question have been either placed on leave to minimize disruption to our schools, or no longer work for the District."

Prompted in part by the Chaifetz and Artuz cases, on May 17 a New Jersey state senator introduced a bill to speed up the response to students' accusations of teacher bullying.

'That's Disgusting,' Said Aide to Boy With Cerebral Palsy

In March, two Alabama teachers were put on administrative leave after the mother of 10-year-old Jose Salinas, who has cerebral palsy, attached an audio recorder to the bottom of his wheelchair and caught them scolding him about drooling, among other things.

Jose Salinas, or as his friends and family call him, "Little Joe," is in fourth grade at Wicksburg High School, a public school in Newton, Ala. Jose has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair at school, but is high-functioning and can walk with a walker.

After a neighborhood girl told Jose's mother, Melisha Salinas, a teacher's aide had been mean to Jose, Salinas put a recorder on his wheelchair.

"You drooled on the paper," teacher's aide Drew Faircloth could be heard saying impatiently. "That's disgusting."

"Keep your mouth closed and don't drool on my paper," teacher Alicia Brown said on the tape. "I do not want to touch your drool. Do you understand that? Obviously, you don't."

"I could not believe someone would treat a child that way, much less a special needs child," Melisha Salinas told ABCNews.com. "The anger in his voices ... and the thing he was getting angry about, [Jose] just can't help."

Houston County Schools superintendent Tim Pitchford told ABCNews.com he immediately put the aide and teacher on administrative leave after he heard the tapes.

Neither Brown nor Faircloth responded to requests for comment from ABCNews.com.

On May 25 a grand jury charged Faircloth with a misdemeanor harassment charge and determined there wasn't enough evidence to charge Brown, WTVY reported.

'Maybe I Should Just Die,' Bullied Student Tells Dad

On April 30, a Nashville elementary school teacher was placed on administrative leave after an audio tape of her insulting her students surfaced, ABC affiliate WKRN reported.

The father of a girl in the teacher's class told WKRN he had been disturbed by a comment the girl made at home.

"It just killed me," said the father, who asked not to be identified. "[She said], 'Well, maybe I should just die.'"

The parents put the recorder in their daughter's backpack to see what exactly the teacher was saying.

The hidden recorder captured more than three hours of relentless criticism, such as "Mark it wrong. Get a brain. I don't know if you can grow one overnight."

"We didn't know when to stop listening to the full three hours, but we tried to say, 'Okay if it calms down in the next two or three minutes, we'll stop and think about what we're going to do,' but those two or three minutes never came," the girl's father told WKRN.

The teacher, who has tenure, will remain on leave while the incident is investigated, school officials told WKRN.

'No Wonder Nobody Likes You'

Another special needs student found herself under verbal assault last fall at her Ohio middle school. Audio recordings made by a 14-year-old named Cheyanne show a teacher's aide calling the girl "dumb," "lazy," and a "liar."

"It's no wonder you don't have friends. It's no wonder nobody likes you, because you lie," the aide says on the recordings.

The recordings also catch Cheyanne's teacher announcing that the girl bombed a test without even looking at the girl's work.

"You failed it. I know it. I don't need your test to grade. You failed it," she said.

After the recordings were played for school authorities, the aide resigned and the teacher took unpaid leave for a year.

Cheyanne felt relief when the truth came out. The teen now attends high school and is enjoying her classes, her parents said.

"She says that there's no problems," her father told "20/20." "The first complaint that we do get, I'll send a recorder."

Teacher Handcuffed, Taken Away on a Stretcher

An 11th grade student taped his algebra teacher yelling and throwing furniture in his Nashville, Tenn. classroom in October, 2010. Several students ran out of the classroom but no one was hurt.

The male teacher was handcuffed and taken out the school on a stretcher. After the incident, the teacher's sister said he appeared to have suffered a nervous breakdown.