Substitute gym teacher put middle schooler in chokehold for ‘trash-talking’: Report

A substitute gym teacher at a Florida middle school is facing criminal charges for allegedly grabbing a 12-year-old boy by his neck and pushing him into a wall.

According to The Lakeland Ledger, Robert Knight, 39, was arrested after a Westwood Middle School student told a school resource officer about an altercation that happened a day earlier. The student reportedly claimed that Knight had engaged in some “smack talk,” which escalated when the substitute physical education teacher removed his shirt and challenged him to a fight.

When the student refused to fight, Knight reportedly put his hands around his neck and forced him against the wall. Other students broke up the altercation, the newspaper reported.

Knight spoke to police Thursday, the same day the student reported the alleged fight to the SRO. Knight confirmed to officers that a verbal provocation led to Wednesday’s fight, saying that the student “does a lot of trash-talking,” WNYW reported.

“I guess I finally let it get to me,” the substitute teacher reportedly told police.  “Not excusing it, just being real with you.”

Knight reportedly claimed he had blacked out and, when he came to, was told by other students that he put the 12-year-old in a chokehold.

Despite his explanation, police arrested Knight and charged him with felony negligent child abuse without bodily harm. He was transported to Polk County Jail without incident.

WFTS noted that Knight was not employed by the Polk County School District but is employed by Kelly Educational Staffing. Knight had been subbing at Westwood Middle, without any issues, since last spring, according to Bay News 9.

Polk County School Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd confirmed in a news release that Knight is barred from working in Polk County schools and she instructed the staffing company to remove him from their available substitute teacher roster.

She said, “Our educators must be patient and caring every day they step into the classroom. There is no excuse for any person working in our schools to treat a child this way.”


[Featured Image: Robert Knight/Polk County Jail]