FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) _ A math teacher has been suspended for allowing a group of sixth-graders to take turns striking a student who missed a homework assignment.

Maxie Rivers was suspended with pay while Hillcrest School officials investigate, said Michael Barrett, his attorney.

The May 16 incident was ``light-hearted,'' Barrett said, and the other youngsters merely ``tapped him kiddingly. Only his best friend _ as best friends will _ punched him.''

But ``Mr. Rivers sees in retrospect that this wasn't the best way to reinforce the lesson,'' Barrett said.

A doctor at the hospital where 11-year-old Aaron Lawton was later taken by his father said the boy suffered bruises.

Aaron said the teacher had singled him out for missing homework in the past and came up with an idea a month ago to get him to turn in his assignments.

``How about we make a bet? If you miss an assignment, the whole class gets to deck you,'' Aaron quoted his teacher as saying. He said he thought his teacher was joking.

After Aaron missed the May 16 assignment, Rivers told the boy to put his arms up, and boys and girls stood in line and punched him, Aaron said. ``Some of the punches were hard, some were soft and some were in between,'' the boy said.

Aaron's father, Neil Lawton, said: ``That`s like telling kids: `Let's settle disputes with violence. I mean, push-ups I could understand, but this?''