A fight caught on video between a teacher and high school student has become a media sensation and caused an uproar in the community.
The video allegedly shows Santa Monica High School wrestling coach and science teacher Mark Black physically restraining a student who supposedly was caught selling marijuana in his classroom.
Students who witnessed the incident said that it began when Black tried to confiscate a bag of cannabis from the teenager who reportedly then stabbed Black with a pencil, reports the Daily News.
Neither Black nor the student threw punches, and the video shows Black eventually with his arms locked around the student’s legs, on the floor.
The student was arrested; Black has been placed on leave pending an investigation.
A letter sent home to parents by Black’s boss has caused an uproar.
Sandra Lyon, superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, wrote in the letter that “a number of videos capturing at least a portion of the incident are circulating, and I can tell you that what I witnessed on one of those videos is utterly alarming.”
She also wrote that the “physical restraint” used by the teacher was “unacceptable.”
Many people disagree.
“In matters of self-defense, or matters involving harm to other students, I think it’s reasonable for teachers to use physical force to restrain students,” Oscar De La Torre, an SMMUSD school board member told KTLA. He said that if Black had wanted to, “he could’ve hurt that student. I call it really restrained intervention on his part.”
A Facebook page supporting Coach Black was created; it had over 2,500 “likes” in a half a day and has now surpassed 6,500. Many commenters on the page have shown their support for the teacher.
“Terrible job by the superintendent making statements without full knowledge of the situation ... poor leadership and not very supportive of her teachers,” wrote John S. Dahlem, a teacher in Orange County who grew up in Santa Monica. “The superintendent needs to read the Education Code on reasonable restraint and the rights of teachers to defend themselves when being attacked, stabbed with a pencil, etc.”
In response to the uproar caused by her first letter, Lyon sent another addressed to the community.
“There is concern that my statement reflected a pre-judgement of the the teacher’s conduct prior to completion of an investigation,” Superintendent Lyon wrote. “There is also concern about my failure to address the conduct of one or more students who were involved in the incident. In retrospect, I understand how my statement created those concerns. I apologize that my comments focuses solely on the message that teachers should not physically engage when disciplining students or intervening without underscoring that we need to obtain all the details leading up to this situation before we reach conclusions.”
A petition has been created by alumni Timothy Conley to reinstate Coach Black. It currently has 1,136 supporters.