A longtime math teacher is being taken up on tenure charges for confronting an 11-year-old student for throwing a snowball from a school bus striking his car, according to charging documents filed by the district.
Nathaniel Gerson blew his horn at the bus and motioned for it to stop after the “melting snowball” hit his car on Route 20 North by the Fair Lawn Avenue Bridge. He pulled his vehicle in front of the school bus and forced the bus to halt in middle of Route 20, according to charging documents.
Gerson exited his car, walked to the entrance of the bus, and banged on the door until allowed inside. Once inside, Gerson, in front of 37 youngsters from the Don Bosco Middle School, began hunting for the boy, “Where is the mother f– who threw that snowball?”
Gerson located the student after aggressively shoving an 11-year-old girl out of his path inside the bus. He grabbed the boy by the neck and arm. Then pulled him out of his seat and forced the boy to the floor of the bus, according to the charging documents.
“Are you f– crazy! Why the f– did you hit my car!” Gerson, who was assigned as a math teacher at the Don Bosco Middle School in 2016-17 school year, shouted at the boy. Several times, Gerson struck the boy on the head, according to the charging documents.
The young boy began to cry in front of his peers as a result of the Feb. 13, 2017 incident.
A concerned teacher saw the bus stopped in middle of the highway. She pulled over her car to see what was the matter. She observed Gerson on top of the boy, according to the charging documents.
“Whatever it was,” that Gerson was doing, Maria Colon, told district investigators, “it wasn’t right.”
Gerson appears to acknowledge the actions against the young boy and his behavior that day “wasn’t right.”
“I do realize I should have handled the matter differently,” Gerson wrote in a document response to the charges against him. In that document, he appears to take exception to some of the content of the charging documents describing them as “mischaracterizations.”
Gerson’s attorney Jerry Tanenbaum of Mattleman, Weinroth & Miller could not immediately be reached for comments on Monday afternoon.
Gerson claimed the incident resulted from the “extremely dangerous behavior of a student who had created a life-threatening situation” by throwing “a block of ice” on his windshield that “nearly” resulted in him driving off the road.
The math teacher was driving behind the school bus. A boy tossed what the district calls a snowball and what he calls a “block of ice” from the rear window of the school bus. He also claims to not have banged on the bus door because the driver immediately allowed him in. The driver recognized the teacher and opened the bus door, according to officials.
The student was belligerent, according to Gerson. “He turned his back to me and refused to turn around when I told him to so that I could visually identify him. He was verbally combative and was cursing at me,” he wrote. He admitted to putting his hands on the student. He wrote the student fell because the floor was wet “probably from the ice and snow he had more of on the bus.”
Gerson says he was never on top of the student.
“I undertook my actions out of concern for safety, and in [a] way caused [an] unsafe situation myself,” wrote Gerson in his document.
Gerson’s document says he did not harm the boy citing an investigation by the New Jersey Institutional Abuse Investigation Unit.
Gerson views the district’s move to strip him of tenure to terminate him as “misplaced and overtly extreme.” For 18 years, 15 with tenure, Gerson taught at the district.
“In all that time, I have never even been accused, let alone found, to have acted in any way with students or administrators other than in [an] exemplary fashion,” Gerson wrote. “Throughout those many years of service, I have often been rated as exceeds expectation or highly effective by my superiors.”
His latest evaluation earned him a highly effective 4.0 score, according to his response to the charges. His salary was $70,500.
School board members reviewed the case in a closed-door meeting and certified tenure charges last week.
Gerson is charged with conduct unbecoming including inappropriate use of physical force, physical contact with students, improper corporal punishment, inappropriate language, and putting students at risk of harm. He was placed in the rubber room pending an investigation of the incident. He is presently suspended without pay, according to school officials.