Who is Alejandro Rocha? NY substitute teacher told middle school class he’d 'shoot' them
A substitute teacher who was arrested for joking about shooting his art class students was released Thursday, July 22, after charges against him were dropped even before he was arraigned before a judge.
Fifty two-year-old Alejandro Rocha, of Queens, was charged Wednesday with making a terrorist threat after he told his middle school class at the Walter Crowley School that he would "shoot" them "if you won’t do as you’re told," adding, "and yes, I have a gun." Rocha was placed in police custody after he himself told his supervisor what he had said to the students, albeit none of them had complained. And while his case was sealed, the substitute teacher said he's still facing consequences, the New York Daily News reported.
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“According to them, it’s as if it never happened,” Rocha told the newspaper of having his case sealed. “But in the meantime, that’s not the truth. It did happen,” he explained. “My (teaching) license was suspended. I’m not able to access the website that allows me to find (teaching) jobs. My TLC license to work for Uber got suspended, and I have to go to a hearing.”
Rocha said he was exhausted as he returned home from his night in custody, still wearing the clothes he had on at school on Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for the Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz’s office said an investigation is underway. However, she did not reveal whether the DA had declined or deferred prosecution, or if Rocha still faced a criminal charge, per the Daily News.
Speaking to the newspaper, Rocha said he meant nothing by the comments he made to the class of 11- and 12-year-olds at the school in Maspeth. However, he decided to tell a supervisor after realizing he might have gone too far.
“I didn’t even yell,” he said. “I’m so used to the kids, I joke around with them. I made a remark that I shouldn’t have said. And the class went on as normal. It’s like when people say, ‘I’m going to throw you out the window,’ but they don’t actually mean it. I was just joking!” he added.
The teacher explained that he has been engaging with the class for four hours a day for the past two weeks, and has built up a rapport with them. Following his comments, he went to his supervisor and told him, “Look, I think I made a bad call today. I made a joke that I shouldn’t have said. I want to tell you in case it comes back to you and is blown out of proportion.”
The supervisor instructed Rocha to write a statement. “The principal of the school doesn’t know who I am. She’s never come into the classroom to see how I work. And next thing I know, she comes in and tells me they are arresting me,” he told the Daily News.
Rocha has been a substitute teacher since 2001 and has no prior disciplinary history, according to Department of Education officials. “My intention is to clear this up,” he insisted. “Hopefully I can fix this and get back to work.”