ROME, NY – A Rome teacher was found not guilty on child abuse charges on Tuesday in Rome City Court.
Ashley Rasbach, of Rome, testified in her own defense on the witness stand during the second day of the trial. She was accused of spraying a student in the face with a water bottle, pulling a child by the hair, grabbing a student by the arms and dropping that child on the floor, and pinning four students behind a door at a special education class at John E. Joy Elementary School in April. She was teaching kindergartners and first graders during the time of the incidents. She faced two counts each of endangering the welfare of a child and second-degree harassment.
When Rasbach was asked about whether she sprayed a bottle of water at a child she said, "I don't recall." She explained that she was teaching students at art activity at the time and that she never intentionally sprayed a child with water. Vicki Maitland, a teacher's assistant in the same classroom, reported all of the incidents to school officials. Maitland testified on Monday that Rasbach reached over her desk and sprayed a child in the face. Maitland said the child stepped back and wiped the water from her face with her sleeve. Maitland claimed the incident happened between 10 and 11 a.m. on April 9. Rasbach referred to her lesson plan book during trial stating that the art project happened at 1:10 p.m. that day.
Rasbach was accused of pulling a child by the hair, who was looking out the window when she was told multiple times to stand in line. Rasbach said she "gently tugged" on a child's ponytail after she had repeatedly given directions to the student, who wasn't listening.
"Should I have done it? No... it was not appropriate. I should have tapped her on her shoulder."
Rasbach was accusation grabbing a child by arms, picking her up and dropping her on the floor. Maitland said the child said Rasbach pinched her.
Rasbach addressed the claim saying she "gently guided" the child to the rug in the classroom, who also wasn't listening to repeated directions.
Rasbach was also accused of squeezing four students behind a door and a wall. Rasbach said the door was at a 45-degree angle and that none of the students were pinned.
Rasbach has been paid administrative leave since the allegations in April. She is able to keep all of her certifications and the case will be sealed.
According to Rebecca Wittman, Rasbach's attorney, Rasbach felt very strongly that she didn't do anything wrong.
Scott McNamara, Oneida County district attorney, said he is disappointed with the judge's ruling and that this could send the wrong message if someone else sees child abuse, that they might not be believed.
Attempts to contact the Peter Blake, superintendent of Rome City School District were unsuccessful.