Jury acquits former Van Meter teacher, coach of assaulting student


Joel Bartz (WHO 13)

VAN METER, Iowa (AP) — A jury has acquitted a former central Iowa coach and teacher who was accused of assaulting one of a group of students trying to toilet-paper his house.

The six-member jury on Friday found Joel Bartz not guilty of misdemeanor assault and not guilty of fifth-degree criminal mischief.

Bartz was employed as a science teacher at Van Meter Middle School and high school sports coach when he stopped a truck carrying a group of teens near his home around 10 p.m. on Sept. 17. Police alleged that when one of the students got out of the truck and approached the teacher, Bartz grabbed the student, pulled him down and punched him in the back and head, ripping the student’s shirt in the process.

Bartz argued at trial that his actions were in self-defense. His attorney, Nicholas Lombardi, said the trial included testimony from a defense expert who concluded the student “had his hands up and in a fighting position before Joel did anything.”

“He’s an amazing guy and the verdict is a correct verdict,” Lombardi said. “It’s very unfortunate that we had to go all the way through a trial in order to get him found not guilty but we did and I’m happy with the result.”

The district placed Bartz, who also helped coach high school football and basketball teams, on leave after his October 2020 arrest. Bartz resigned his teaching and coaching positions earlier this year, Van Meter Superintendent Deron Durflinger said Monday.

“We are glad that all parties involved have some closure to the situation,” Durflinger said.

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