Cape Girardeau high school teacher charged with assaulting student

Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Roman Smith (photo from The Tiger student newspaper)

A Cape Girardeau Central High School teacher is charged with choking a student and causing him to pass out Jan. 21.

Roman D. Smith, 32, a physics teacher at the school, is charged with misdemeanor third-degree assault stemming from a "play fight" with a student in a parking lot downtown Jan. 21, according to a news release from Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle.

The "fight" began after Smith, the student and two of the student's female friends engaged in conversation. Smith and the student playfully kicked each other, the student's mother, Penny Coleman, said. It escalated when Smith allegedly wrapped his feet around the student's waist and applied a choke hold, causing the student to lose consciousness, according to the release.

The student convulsed and snored after allegedly being choked, one of the witnesses told Coleman.

Smith received a summons Tuesday and will appear in court March 6. Smith is a member of the National Guard's 1-138 Infantry Regiment based in Perryville, Mo., according to the Nov. 3 edition of the high school's paper, The Tiger.

"He's trained to put that hold on someone," Coleman said.

Coleman said Smith had accused her son of cheating on a test in August. Coleman said that in a meeting with Cape Girardeau Central High School principal Dr. Mike Cowan and Coleman, Smith apologized and assured Coleman "nothing would happen again."

Smith pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in November and was given a suspended imposition of sentence.

A phone number for Smith could not be found late Tuesday.

The student went to a doctor Jan. 22 with back pain and neck cramps, Coleman said.

Coleman contacted the Southeast Missourian on Jan. 23 and said she had spoken with police about the incident. When asked about the incident report that day, Cape Girardeau police spokesman Darin Hickey said a report stated it was a play fight, but the report had not been sent to the prosecutor.

Swingle said Tuesday he was not sure when he received the probable-cause statement from police. On Jan. 23, Swingle said his office did not have anything on the incident.

The date on the probable-cause statement is Jan. 24, and Cape Girardeau Police Chief Carl Kinnison said he believed that was the day the report was sent to Swingle. Receiving and reviewing reports typically takes the prosecutor a few days, Kinnison said.

Cowan could not be immediately reached for comment. On Jan. 23 -- the Monday after the incident -- Cape Girardeau public schools superintendent Dr. Jim Welker said he was looking into the incident and that Smith was not at school that day. Welker did not confirm Jan. 23 whether Smith had been placed on administrative leave but said school officials were looking into the matter.

Welker confirmed Tuesday that Smith was placed on leave Jan. 22, the Sunday following the altercation.

"It would have been the Monday following the incident," Welker said Tuesday. "Basically he has been on administrative leave, which I guess was that Sunday, so he was not at school that Monday."

Coleman said she kept her son out of school in the days following the incident. The student's school schedule has been rearranged to take him out of Smith's class if Smith were to return, Coleman said.

If convicted, Smith faces up to a year in prison or up to $1,000 in fines.

"I don't think it should be a misdemeanor," Coleman said. "It should be a felony. I want him to go to prison. He could've killed my son."


Southeast Missourian reporter Erin Ragan contributed to this report.

Pertinent address:

South Main Street and Independence Street, Cape Girardeau, MO

1000 S. Silver Springs Road, Cape Girardeau, MOne

Map of pertinent addresses

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