DANVERS — A Salem District Court clerk will not issue a criminal complaint against Steven Cohen, the band director at Holten Richmond Middle School, following a clerk magistrate's hearing yesterday.

Three sets of parents had sought criminal charges against Cohen, who has been on leave since April after acknowledging to the principal that he "may have forcefully guided" three disruptive students into his classroom, according to a police report.

Ana Cocci, assistant clerk for Salem District Court, said she decided it would be best if the Danvers schools handled the issue.

"I'm not going to issue a complaint," Cocci said.

She also weighed the fact that the parents waited months after the alleged incident to pursue a criminal complaint, and that Danvers police investigated, but felt the matter did not warrant bringing charges against Cohen.

"They did not pursue. They were asked, and they looked into it," said Cocci, who said she holds the Danvers Police Department's work in high regard.

"I guess I would just say Mr. Cohen was vindicated today," said Tom Guiney, Cohen's attorney, "and that these parents overreacted to a great extent. My thing is, in this day and age, kids aren't held accountable for their own actions, and that is regrettable."

Asked if Cohen will be returning to school in the fall, he said, "He's going to return in September. He should never have been disciplined in the first place. ...

"The guy's been through hell," he said. "The guy has lost a considerable amount of pay." The matter has also taken a toll on Cohen emotionally, he said, noting that his client was "scared to death" going into court yesterday.

According to the police report, the three eighth-graders were sent out of the classroom for disruptive behavior and told to write "I have detention every day for the rest of the week" 500 times. Instead, they wrote "help" and "S.O.S." and held their signs in the window for their classmates to see.

One parent told the school principal that when the teacher came out to deal with the disruption, he "grabbed (her son) by the shirt and forcefully pushed him," according to the police report.

"Mr. Cohen said that he may have forcefully guided the boys back into the classroom, but nothing extreme in light of the situation," the police report said.

One mother complained to the principal the same day; the other parents did not complain to the principal until March and April. The police report said the boys may not have pushed the incident because they feared they would not be allowed to march with the Falcon Marching Band on its third appearance in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1. Two of the boys marched as planned.

About six months after the incident, parents filed a complaint against the teacher in Salem District Court alleging assault and assault and battery. Cocci determined there was not sufficient evidence to move forward with criminal charges, meaning there will be no public record of the complaint.

The parents who approached Cali in April told the principal they wanted charges brought against the teacher and they wanted him fired within 48 hours, according to the police report.

The police report said Cohen was on leave while the investigation was ongoing.

Superintendent Lisa Dana would say only that a teacher was absent and would be absent through the end of the school year.

Cohen has been teaching band for 18 years, according to his biography on the school website. He earned $64,946 in 2009, according to town records.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673 or by e-mail at eforman@salemnews.com.

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