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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

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I wait for more details on this - doesn't smell right.

-- Posted by Dug on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 4:59 PM

What is a teacher doing hanging around with a student that he has in his class I thought teachers are professionals on a downtown parking lot on a Saturday and wrestling with them? going to the bars or what.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 5:30 PM

how old is the student?

-- Posted by TommyStix on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 6:02 PM

Dug I agree...something doesn't smell right and there is more to this story. One side has been told.

-- Posted by drivennail on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 6:43 PM

Kinda sounds like a set up to me. Why would you wait IF this really happened? Someone looking for some money outta this??

-- Posted by Hot Dog on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 6:46 PM

Its a money grab.

-- Posted by jcjayof61 on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 6:49 PM

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

It's about the money. Mom's looking to cash in.

Kidd, mad at teacher for cheating accusation, sees said teacher and to prove his prowess to his two female friends, says, "watch this girls, I'm kicking his butt". Turns out jr wasn't as tough as he thought. Got laughed at by the girls. Did get some sympathy for the "wink" "wink" back and neck pain.

-- Posted by FreedomFadingFast on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 7:46 PM

Regardless of the real story here, the administration of the Cape school system has a history of over-reacting to accusers, so this teacher will be gone...even if he didn't do anything wrong. Not that I am saying that this teacher didn't do anything wrong...but that it doesn't matter if he did or didn't...end result will be the same! And, reading this article, Jim Welker sounds a bit stupid!

-- Posted by Irkedparent on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 8:37 PM

The lessons I learned in my highschool years were not always in the classroom. Just saying that it takes more than book knowlege to grow up. He will thank this teacher in his later years.

Note to mom: Thank this man now for his concern for your son.

-- Posted by yy4me on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 9:03 PM

play fighting? not much of this makes sense morley.

-- Posted by wonderfulneighbors on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 9:04 PM

Looks like this nice respectable teacher is wearing a uniform in this picture. Something isn't right here.

-- Posted by Right_winger on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 9:09 PM

From what I've heard, it was a Saturday night and the kid is 18 years old (adult). He started in with this teacher and it didn't work out for him. This bully should have stuck with pickin on kids.

-- Posted by grandma73 on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 9:21 PM

Mr. Smith is an excellent teacher. He also cares about his students. Mom is looking for a pay day. The media will do a hatchet job on this man and the administration will cave. yy4me...I agree, junior got a lesson that you can't put a price on---next time the man that he calls out and tries to play fight with might not be as merciful.

-- Posted by bluejay_fan_natic20 on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 9:23 PM

The media will do a hatchet job on this man and the administration will cave. -- Posted by bluejay_fan_natic20 on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 9:23 PM

Keep us posted on what happens. Sounds like a teacher some school districts would love to have. Sounds like a punk was shoving and swinging and the teach, to avoid a conflict, put him to sleep.

But I'll wait for "the rest of the story".

-- Posted by Dug on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 9:49 PM

Witch Hunt. That's all this is.

I'm sure this teacher had no intention to harm the "victim". Some punk kid got his butt handed to him.....let it be what it is. I hope the people of Cape Girardeau don't think that all kids are harmless little butterflies. I have a feeling this kid is a complete pain in the backside and really had one coming.

The soldier was trained to perform this manuever for this very reason. To disarm an attacker. Job well done. OORAH!

Mom, it's probably time to just let this one go and apply a well deserved spanking to your perfect little angel.

-- Posted by justkev on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 10:08 PM

A rear naked choke is always dangerous, but even more so when the legs are brought into play. A military trained person should have a better tool than this in his belt to handle a kid. Sounds like dumb and dumber on a Saturday night.

-- Posted by rodgerdodger on Tue, Jan 31, 2012, at 10:58 PM

He is a good teacher. Sounds like the kids were trying to start something. He probably should have handled the kid differently, but there are two sides to every story. I would like to hear Mr. Smith's side.

-- Posted by Thinking for myself on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 12:11 AM

The story says he wrapped his legs around the victims waist and applied a choke hold. It does not say if it was a rear naked or anything. There are several chokes that can be applied from the back. Though if the teacher did apply a choke hold he did so for one of two reasons. One, he was showing off his fancy moves and applied the choke to show off, the kids thinking it was cool. Two, which I believe I may have happened, this kid attacked the teacher, teacher reacted, made sure student could not threaten him anymore.

Story says that the only witnesses were two female friends of the student. No one else saw this, just 3 students. Their word against his, which means it could be a set up. Someone like him who is in the guard knows when to use these moves, how to apply them to kill and to stop a threat, and what happens if they break the law. A trained professional can slap on a choke and use it to choke you out no problem, without killing you or trying to hurt you. It is used as a way to stop threats aka reduce harm to the soldier. The kid was only in danger if he was trying to kill the teacher.

This whole story does sound fishy and I believe it should not have been reported in the paper until all info was gathered. Get all sides of the story, not just one. This is why people believe the media is Bias these days.

-- Posted by dracopendragon1985 on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 12:13 AM

More childish behavior from a couple of hot heads.

Teacher Smith should have walked away. Student should have accepted responsibility for cheating on his test and kept his 18 year old mouth shut!

I have to wonder if alcohol played a roll in this altercation. I believe several hours of community service are in order for both of these kids. JMO

-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 5:53 AM

"good teachers" do not use choke holds on students.

-- Posted by ratiocination on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 6:31 AM

Like it has been said we don't know Mr. Smiths side. None of us were there.

-- Posted by agape on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 6:52 AM

If some punk jumped me for a "play fight" when I least expect it they would go down hard. I don't care if I'm a grandma, high school teacher or Pesident of the USA.

-- Posted by grandma73 on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 7:24 AM

Mom's looking for a payday & sympathy. SHE contacted the paper about the incident to try to drag this man's name through the mud. I think the posters above have the story right--revenge for the cheating accusation. Now they are going to destroy a man's reputation and career. I think he should go after them for defamation of character.

-- Posted by Tax__Payer on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 7:28 AM

Search mom's name on the U.S. Bureau of Prisons webpage. It's all you gotta know.

-- Posted by bbqman on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 7:34 AM

Regardless of moms history or the students, a teacher should know better and never have put himself in this situation. I'm not wondering why the student was in a downtown parking lot but why a teacher would stop to talk to a teacher down there??? I applaude Mr. Swingle for taking action on this case.

Mr. Smith sounds like a great guy with his DWI conviction and now assault on a student. Was he drinking at the time of the assault???

-- Posted by Its me on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 8:37 AM

muff, I went to the US Bureau of Prisons, searched on "Penny Coleman" and came up with nothing. If you know something, say it.

-- Posted by Mark Rutledge on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 10:11 AM

It sounds fishy to me... the Mom running to the paper first thing? Did she know her little jr was where he should not have been? Probably not..Did she tell him to suck it up and pay the consequences when he was caught cheating? Probably not...Parents today need to wake up!!

-- Posted by Rocky B on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 10:39 AM

Sounds fishy to me... did Mommy tell the kid to man up and face the consequences when he was caught cheating? Probably not..... I just bet a dollar that this 18 yr old had a big mouth and thought he was alot tougher than he was!! Parents need to get a clue!! I am not saying that the teacher was right or wrong. Lets let this play out in the courts. I have heard many young people with smart mouths disrespect teachers!!

-- Posted by Rocky B on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 10:47 AM

Isn't there security cameras down in that area, especially the parking lot?

-- Posted by Hot Dog on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 10:51 AM

Sounds like the meeting of two fools.

-- Posted by Bickiestew on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 1:44 PM

He is a physics teacher. Are choke holds not in the field of physics?

-- Posted by FunkDaddy on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 2:17 PM

What does this teacher's DWI have to do with an assault charge, or the incident? Why don't we discuss the records of all parties if we are going to start comparing character. Sounds like someone just trying to get money to me. Also, I don't feel like most teachers will confront kids about cheating unless they are pretty sure about it due to the consequences the student will face- that's just my opinion however.

-- Posted by semo09 on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 2:18 PM

i agree, something isnt right, looks like a mom wanting a lawsuit over nothing

-- Posted by judgment82 on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 2:32 PM

the kid was coming from "across the river".

Look his mom up on case net, she obviously has better stuff to do than raise her child.

-- Posted by insidescoop on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 3:10 PM


haha thats priceless

-- Posted by judgment82 on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 4:28 PM

DWI charge alone could be viewed as grounds for dismissal, depending on the school district's normal due process and contract enforcement.

-- Posted by Gnarls on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 4:31 PM

WOW. This is definitely a case where the suspect should be considered innocent until proven guilty. The mother of the "victim" has a history of drug charges, (Missouri Casenet). And the way the probable cause statement reads, I have to question if there is any evidence to support any of this story. Stay strong Mr Smith.

-- Posted by nighttrain on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 9:15 PM

The accused is always mug shot, unless they're female. It's time the accuser is also profiled with as much scrutiny. I remember the Duke Lacrosse fiasco.

Prior arrest for DWI has nothing to do with this story, unless you are trying to convict in the media. To be fair you should also list his accomplishments as well as the accuser's.

-- Posted by yy4me on Wed, Feb 1, 2012, at 9:27 PM

I went to college with Roman Smith and performed in a play with him at the Rose Theatre - he's a fantastic individual. Everything about this story strikes me as bizarre - Roman is a fun, playful guy who would never be caught dead in this situation if he thought he was doing anything other than kidding with the student.

Not to mention that he's a served our country AND now our community as a teacher - i think that testifies pretty well to his personal integrity, if my personal experience doesn't.

It doesn't sound like the story has legs at all - and it absolutely sounds like a mother grossly overreacting. He could have 'killed her son'? Are you kidding me? He's a teacher, lady, who clearly thought he was joking with a student - who obviously realized he was joking around, too (snoring/convulsing in response). If Roman inadvertantly hurt the student, I'm sure he feels terrible about it, and he obviously apologized - now you want this decent guy to go to prison for a year? Are you kidding me?

I hope Central does the right thing and keeps Roman on staff, but I don't think they will.

-- Posted by Sedative1 on Thu, Feb 2, 2012, at 11:17 AM

2 guys plus 2 girls looking on. Sounds like more macho BS to me!!!!

-- Posted by ArcticFox on Thu, Feb 2, 2012, at 11:59 AM

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