Steve Roth, the New Jersey teacher who was taped berating a special needs student last year, may actually lose his job now. For the better part of a year, Roth has been appealing votes for his termination.
Roth’s story made national headlines after NBC10 Investigator Harry Hairston interviewed the 15-year-old victim and posted his video online. Julio Artuz told Hairston that Roth humiliated him repeatedly in class, but that his parents didn’t believe him. So to prove his point, Artuz decided to use his cell phone to tape his teacher unloading on him in class.
In the video, Artuz is asking Roth not to call him “special.”
Roth challenges Artuz, at one point, telling him, "You know what Jules, I'll kick your a** from here to kingdom come until I'm 80 years old." Later, Roth gets right up in the student's face and taunts him, telling him that nobody cares that he is special. . ."Nobody gives a f***.
After Hairston showed that video in his story from November of 2011, it went viral and Roth’s rant made headlines around the country. Since that point in time, Roth has been fighting to keep his job while educators and administrators have been fighting to fire him.
The process started with the school – Bankbridge Regional High School, which put Roth on administrative leave that same month. The Gloucester County School Board voted to terminate Roth in December.
Roth appealed to the then acting New Jersey Commissioner of Education, Chris Cerf at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Jeff Mason, where he was apologetic, saying he had a compassion for teaching and that the video of him yelling at Artuz, “It’s not who I am.” Roth said he was struggling with personal problems at home and acted out of frustration.
Dr. Susan Heikin, who coordinates the state’s anti-bullying policy at two New Jersey school districts, testified at that same hearing that her investigation of Roth showed his actions crossed the line.
"Our conclusion was it was a violation," said Dr. Heikin.
Gloucester County Superintendent Michael Diken also says Roth’s actions clearly violated the state’s anti-bullying and harassment policy.
"I was professionally devastated by it," said Diken.
Following his hearing, the judge found a violation of conduct unbecoming and unacceptable, but determined that Roth should not be terminated, should be suspended without pay for the rest of the 2011-2012 school year, get no raises for the next two school years and go through anger management training.
The Gloucester County Special Services School District Board of Education filed exceptions to Mason's decision and on June 25, Cerf, now the Commissioner of Education, issued a decision finding that Roth's behavior warranted termination:
"The Commissioner is surprised that a mature teacher – particularly a special education teacher – would believe, let alone suggest, that the choice of words and demeanor manifest on the October 21, 2011 recording (Petitioner’s Exhibit P-1) could be an acceptable or effective way of conveying advice or insights to students. It is one thing to be blunt, and quite another to publicly insult and intimidate. Further, any message that respondent claims to have intended to convey about the real world and the traits that are needed to make a living therein could only have been completely obscured both by the nature of his behavior – which was the opposite of what can be expected to elicit success in “the real world."
At their next board meeting, that decision was implemented with Roth's termination effective December 5, 2011.
Roth has appealed this latest decision. We tried to contact Roth and his attorney. At the time of publication, they had not returned or request for comment.