Saturday, Apr 19, 2014

No charges for Explorer K-8 custodian accused of grabbing child


BROOKSVILLE - An Explorer K-8 custodian will not face charges after a student said he grabbed a kindergarten student by the shirt collar and pulled him across the cafeteria to a trash can.

Joseph Gemmati, a custodian of 22 years with the school district, has never had any disciplinary problems before the Nov. 5 incident. The parents of the child wished to press criminal charges.

However, the Attorney General's Office decided not to pursue charges in the case, and Gemmati was instead issued a formal letter of reprimand, and removed from volunteer lunch duty starting Nov. 7.

He also has to attend meetings with the school's principal, Barbara Kidder, to review expectations for the future in the event a similar situation arises, the investigation found.

An investigation was opened into the matter after a third-grade student reported seeing "Mr. Gemmati grab a kindergartner by his collar and drag him across the (cafeteria) about 10 feet because he was crying," documents show.

The incident was recorded on surveillance video and viewed during a predetermination meeting.

"It appears that you have your hand on the student's arm or collar," investigators for the district said, transcripts show. "It looks like you grab the student and pull him to the trash can."

During the meeting, Gemmati said he may have redirected the student by taking his hand and pulling him off to the side, but did not recall grabbing the student by the collar or arm.

He also said he tells students not to run or jump in the lunch room, and to put their garbage in the trash can, but they don't listen.

"I can't watch them all," he said, adding that he is only one of two staffers volunteering as a lunch monitor. "I'm only one person."

Gemmati also said he reacted out of concern for the student's safety, and his reviews were described throughout the course of the investigation as "outstanding."

Gemmati expressed remorse that any situation arose at all, and the investigation concluded the incident occurred without harmful intent.

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