A lawyer for the former eighth-grade science teacher at Bailey Middle School in West Haven who was charged after a chair-pulling incident at school appeared in court briefly on Wednesday.
Hugh Keefe is representing David Pfaff, 31 of Cheshire. Keefe said he exchanged some information with prosecutors and obtained a copy of the police report in Milford Superior Court.
West Haven police arrested Pfaff, 31, last month and charged him with second-degree reckless endangerment and second-degree breach of peace.
The investigation into Pfaff’s actions started after police received cellphone video that allegedly showed Pfaff yank a chair out from underneath a middle school student.
"This is not the time to be a teacher. Everyone second guesses everything you did and that's what's happening in this case," Keefe said outside court.
Pfaff, who was terminated from his teaching job, apologized and said that the incident unfolded after he asked a student with behavioral problems to move several times so others could use the table where he was sitting.
Instead of moving, the student refused to get up and used inappropriate language, according to Pfaff.
“He used very, very, very inappropriate language toward me and toward other students," Pfaff said during an interview in early November.
At that point, Pfaff said he asked the student one more time to "please move." When the student refused, Pfaff said he was faced with three options — to let it go, call security or intervene.
"I felt like calling security, getting the administration involved — the school administration involved — and having him sent to in-school suspension, or whatever discipline measure they said was necessary, I felt that was overkill," Pfaff said.
Instead, Pfaff said he decided to use a technique he’d seen other teachers use in similar situations: move the student's chair to get him to stand so the teacher could escort him to another area of the room.
"I felt that I needed to intervene in some way that I had not previously done," Pfaff said.
When he did, the student fell to the ground. Pfaff said that wasn't the intent and said he would never harm a student. He explained that teachers often have to make split-second decisions.
"I looked at him and I looked at the chair. I know you are not supposed to touch a student. You don’t do that," Pfaff said. "I never meant for that to happen — never."
The student didn't complain of any pain but became violent when he stood up, knocking over chairs and throwing things, Pfaff said, forcing the teacher to call security.
Security personnel removed the student from the classroom, Pfaff said, and Pfaff was escorted to his car and told he was being put on home leave during the investigation.
Pfaff, who has about a year of teaching experience and previously served as a substitute teacher in Waterbury, had been teaching in West Haven for just three months.
West Haven Supt. Neil Cavallaro sent Pfaff a letter on Nov. 5 stating, "I have concluded that it is in the best interest of the district to separate employment prior to the completion of your ninety day (90) probationary period."