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Teacher charged with assault for grabbing fleeing first-grader

Posted: 05/16/07 at 12:56 pm    Updated: 05/17/07 at 12:56 pm

LAWRENCE, Mass. -- A substitute teacher who ran after a fleeing first-grader and pulled the boy down the hallway by his shirt has been charged with assault and battery.

Douglas Tracia, 48, left scratches and lacerations on the boy's neck in the incident, caught on a surveillance camera Tuesday at South Lawrence East School, police said.

"It looked as if someone had tried to strangle him," Lina Tejada, the mother of the 7-year-old boy, told the Eagle-Tribune of Lawrence.

Superintendent Wilfredo Laboy said Tracia, of Georgetown, was suspended without pay until the criminal case is resolved. Tracia has worked as a substitute teacher since January.

"These things are very serious matters, and even if it's alleged or unsubstantiated, it's a very serious thing," Laboy said.

Tracia's phone number was unlisted and he could not be reached for comment.

The video shows the boy running down an empty school hallway and through a set of double doors with Tracia running after him. Moments later, the two reappear through the doorway, with Tracia holding the boy by either the neck or the shirt collar. It appears the boy's body swings when his feet are lifted off the ground.

The chain of events that led to the chase began when a girl threw a book at the boy in a classroom. The boy threw the book back, hitting the girl, school resource officer Paul Rossi said.

Tracia sent the girl to the nurse's office. When she returned, Tracia told the two kids to shake hands and apologize, Rossi said. The boy refused, then headed out the door.

After catching the fleeing boy, Tracia brought him to the principal's office.

Lawrence police Chief John J. Romero said officials filed assault and battery charges against Tracia in court Wednesday and made a copy of the tape for the Essex County district attorney to watch to decide whether to upgrade the charges from a misdemeanor to a felony.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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