LINWOOD — The Board of Education voted unanimously at a special executive session April 12 to file tenure charges against a Belhaven Middle School teacher charged with assault on a student, Interim School District Superintendent Michelle Cappelluti said Tuesday.
The board's action seeks to dismiss music teacher Kimberley Peschi from her position and permanently bar her from employment with the Linwood Board of Education.
The action placed Peschi on unpaid suspension as permitted under New Jersey law.
Peschi, 40, of Galloway Township, was charged with assault on a student Feb. 15 after an incident in which a 12-year-old student fell from a chair in the cafeteria and hit his head on the floor, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said.
Peschi was on lunch duty Feb. 9 when she allegedly used her leg to pull the chair of the student, causing him to fall backward, Tyner said in a press release March 16.
Cappelluti said tenure charges are filed to remove someone who has tenure. She said the tenure charges move forward to the New Jersey commissioner of education to be adjudicated under state education law.
Tenure charges can be filed for a few reasons, she said; in this case it is for “conduct unbecoming.” Basically, when an incident occurs, the superintendent goes to the board and makes a recommendation on whether or not a tenure charge should be filed.
The superintendent files the charges with the board secretary. The teacher gets 15 days to respond; after that the board must vote in executive session on the filing. In this case, the Linwood Board of Education unanimously approved to proceed, Cappelluti said.
If the board voted not to approve, the matter would be dropped, she said.
The commissioner of education assigns an administrative law judge to hold a hearing, and there is a process similar to a court case where the evidence is presented. The judge makes a recommendation to the commissioner, who can accept, reject, or modify the decision. In any presented case, a teacher could lose his or her job or only experience a loss of pay for a certain period of time, according to the superintendent.
A municipal court hearing for Peschi on the assault charge is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 19 in Linwood-Northfield Municipal Court held at Northfield City Hall, 1600 Shore Road.