EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

March 15, 2008

Substitute won't go to jail, but banned from teaching

LAWRENCE — A former substitute teacher convicted of assaulting a first-grader won't go to jail, but is barred from teaching elementary school in Massachusetts.

Douglas Tracia, 48, of Georgetown was sentenced yesterday to 60 days in jail — all of it suspended for a 21/2-year probationary period — by Lawrence District Court Judge Kevin Gaffney. Tracia's elementary school teaching license will be revoked and he must attend anger management classes.

Prosecutors wanted Tracia to serve 60 days in jail for picking up a 7-year-old South Lawrence East Elementary School student by his shirt collar and banging him into a door last May 15. The incident was captured on the school's surveillance camera.

"I think it's a significant sentence, but I'm happy that the court didn't see fit to incarcerate Mr. Tracia," his lawyer, Wayne Murphy, said. "He remains convinced he did nothing wrong."

Murphy said that Tracia received about 80 e-mails from other teachers and people in education after a jury found him guilty of reckless assault and battery Thursday for the incident, "expressing their outrage at the verdict and their best wishes."

"Most of the sentiments were that he was confronted with a tough situation and dealt with it reasonably," Murphy said.

Gaffney gave little explanation of his decision, saying only, "The court is mindful that this is an emotionally charged case," and instructing those present in the courtroom not to react when the clerk read the sentence.

Tracia and several family members in court yesterday declined to comment.

Before sentencing, the boy's mother — Lina Tejada, 32 — read a statement she had written on a crumpled piece of notebook paper through a Spanish-language interpreter.

"He has cried a lot," Tejada said of her son. "He has nightmares and he's very afraid. He said he didn't want to come here. He doesn't even want to see his teacher on television."

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