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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Second Claim in P.S. 65 ‘Fight Club’

QUEENS (CN) - A second civil lawsuit was filed against a Queens teacher and paraprofessional accused of goading students into fighting in a classroom of P.S. 65. The teacher, Joseph Gullotta, was charged with two criminal counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and faces a pretrial hearing in February, the Queens District Attorney's Office said.

Gullotta has not yet been indicted.

In separate lawsuits, students accuse Gullotta and paraprofessional Abraham Fox of telling their classmates to close the door, form a ring around them and cheer them on in a fight.

The first lawsuit was filed in September by the father of T.R., who said that Gullotta not only orchestrated the fight, but showed his 11-year-old son pictures of women in bathing suits, put his hands on his son's buttocks and tried to touch his son's crotch.

The recent lawsuit was filed by the mother of 10-year-old J.S., who said her son was "prodded" to fight with T.R. in the makeshift ring.

Both students say the fight happened a year ago, on Jan. 28, 2010.

"At the above time and place the Defendant Joseph Gullotta did instruct his other students to close the classroom doors, to encircle their chairs to create a ring around the infant Plaintiff and his adversary; and to cheer the combatants on in their fight," Jeannette Stokel says in the recent complaint.

After both students were injured in the fight, Gullotta told them "to lie to the school nurse, to their parents and to anyone else who inquired about how the injuries were sustained," Stokel says in her complaint.

The father of T.R. claimed that Gullotta told the boys to say they had "bumped their heads" other while bending down to pick up a pencil.

The students were removed from the classroom once the "true facts of the incident [came] to light," Stokel says.

Stokel says her son had to be transferred to another school, causing "additional emotional trauma, pain and suffering."

After the first lawsuit was filed, The New York Daily News reported that Fox was suspended without pay and Gullotta was transferred to a "rubber room," a reassignment center where teachers collect wages while facing disciplinary action.

The father of T.R. said that his son was "held up to ridicule, scorn, embarrassment and insult by the remaining staff members at P.S. 65 and other children who had been advised that the infant plaintiff was the cause of the firing and/or reassignment."

After "a few days" of this ridicule, T.R. missed school for the rest of the year and was "compelled to be home schooled by his parents because he fears coming into a school environment," his father said.

The father said his son was graduated on a "principal's excuse" and was "ostracized" from the school.

Stokel is represented in Queens County Court by William Chimeri.

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