Last Updated: Friday, 2:11 p.m.
A teacher at Buddy Taylor Middle School who got into an argument with a student over the student repeatedly playing music on his computer and calling him a name is at the Flagler County jail after violently removing the student from his seat and the classroom, and throwing him into the hallway.
The 14-second video a student captured in the classroom is brief but stark: a man who appears to be Jeffrey Allen Paffumi, the teacher at Buddy Taylor known as Rocco, snatches the 14-year-old student out of his seat by grabbing his right arm, lifts him out, hooks the student’s left arm with his own left arm from behind–what the student described as a choke hold–lifts him off his feet, then carries him across the room, telling the student: “Show me how tough you are. You want to call me a cracker?”
Paffumi then appears to use the boy’s body to open the classroom door, shoving him away from the classroom and into the hall.
Another student caught the incident on video and sent the video clip to the student’s father. (See the video below.)
On Wednesday afternoon, Paffumi, 47, was arrested on a battery charge and incarcerated at the Flagler County jail, where he remains on no bond at the time this story initially published.
The student told Flagler County Sheriffs’s deputies that he was playing music on his computer during first period, in Paffumi’s class. Paffumi went to his desk and himself muted the student’s computer. The student un-muted it. Paffumi muted it one or two more times, then held the computer over the student’s head.
“Put my shit down cracka,” the student said he told the teacher.
“I am not a cracka,” the teacher said (in the spelling used in Paffumi’s arrest report.)
“You is a cracka,” the 14 year old student told the 47-year-old teacher.
The student said Paffumi then grabbed him and threw him out. The student said his breathing was never impeded. The student said he was not injured.
The boy’s father told Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies that what the boy had allegedly said was wrong, but wanted to pursue charges.
The sheriff’s office says it’s unclear who shot the video. There are very few students in the class: other than the alleged victim, just three are visible in the video, plus the student who shot it. What students were interviewed by deputies said they had not witnessed the incident, though the video show one student clearly putting his hands on his head as he and another student kept their eyes trained on Paffumi as he trailed across the room.
Paffumi voluntarily spoke with deputies. “That student,” he said, referring to him by name, “was being disobedient and not doing what he was supposed to do.” He said the student refused to turn down the music, then rapped out loud, and when the teacher went to mute the music again, the student allegedly slapped his hand away and turned the music back up. Then he called him names.
Then the student was upset and stood up, according to the teacher. “I then treated him like any unruly student and grabbed him safely so he couldn’t hurt himself or anybody else.” There is no indication in the video or in the student’s statements to deputies that he was intending to hurt himself or others.
The teacher told deputies he pushed the student once outside the classroom “to separate themselves in case he was mad and could not hit me.”
The teacher said he “heard the word cracka and it wasn’t a big deal because he is half-white and Polynesian,” according to the arrest report. The teacher said he did not think the student was fighting back “and if he did, he did not feel it.”
A school district spokesman did not respond to phone calls or texts Wednesday evening. Thursday morning, he wrote in an email that Paffumi has been a district employee since 2005, and at Buddy Taylor Middle School since August 2008, as an exceptional student education support facilitator. “His current status is he was placed on administrative leave immediately once we learned of the incident. We are currently investigating the classroom incident and will be handling this in accordance with School Board and union policies and procedures regarding employee conduct,” the spokesman wrote.
Paffumi twice faced charges in Flagler in 2012, including a battery charge, when adjudication was withheld. In that incident, he was observed by several witnesses striking another man in the face several times, according to his arrest report at the time. He’d claimed someone had taken his drink. The same year he faced a criminal mischief charge following an encounter with law enforcement during which he was “very angry and aggressive toward law enforcement on scene,” according to his arrest report. “This is the second time I personally have had to deal with Jeffrey when he is intoxicated, screaming and yelling at” his wife, the law enforcement officer reported in Paffumi’s arrest report.
“As a teacher you have to control your temper even when students test you,” Sheriff Rick Staly said in a release. “This is an unfortunate incident involving a teacher and a student. My daughter is a school teacher and I know from her how misbehaved some students can be but as a teacher you must deal with it appropriately. Corporal punishment like the old days is not allowed today.”
Flagler Schools Superintendent Jim Tager in the same release said “The actions of this teacher are not consistent with how we expect our educators to act and behave and it will not be tolerated. We immediately removed Mr. Paffumi from the classroom following the incident and placed him on leave pending an investigation. I have stressed to my
executive team the importance of handling this investigation with the utmost seriousness it deserves. I also understand a video shows only a portion of a particular incident, so this investigation will encompass the incident in totality and not just what was captured on a camera.”