In a classroom at Santa Monica High School on Friday, science teacher and wrestling coach Mark Black pinned a student to the floor after the 18-year old allegedly punched the veteran administrator in the face.
The African American student, identified as Blair Moore, was confronted by Black when he witnessed the student selling marijuana in his classroom. When Black approached and challenged him, Moore threw a punch, sparking the physical altercation.
Although the 60-year old did not throw a punch back, a cellphone video from inside the classroom shows the coach swatting at the student and using standard wrestling moves, such as grabbing a thigh, to take him down.
Moore was arrested by police on suspicion of threatening a school official, battery against a school employee, and possession of a weapon and marijuana on campus. He is being held on $20,000 bail.
Another student, an unidentified 16-year old, was also arrested on suspicion of battery against a school employee. He was issued a citation and released to his parents.
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent Sandra Lyon placed Black on leave and issued a statement last weekend, saying, "Until the investigation is complete, we will not have all the details that led up to this incident; nevertheless, based on the what I have viewed, the kind of physical restraint used by the teacher is unacceptable."
However, since then, angry parents and students have come to Black's defense, saying that the superintendent was too quick to judge the situation. A petition for his reinstatement has been created on Change.org and already has 6,282 of the 7,500 supporters needed for it to be presented to Superintendent Lyon and Eva Mayoral, Santa Monica High School’s principal.
In addition, a Facebook page titled "We Support Coach Black" has been created and has almost 17,000 likes.
Oscar de la Torre, a district school board member and former student of Mr. Black, said, “It’s a huge controversy when teachers put their hands on students. From me knowing Mr. Black personally — he was a former teacher of mine — I know him to be a fair person. The school board is committed to conducting a thorough and fair investigation."
De la Torre also added that the incident points to a larger issue and that the "drug problem" on campus needs to be addressed.
Since her initial statement, Superintendent Lyons has apologized, saying, “There is concern that my statement reflected a pre-judgment of the teacher’s conduct prior to completion of an investigation. 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 has created these concerns. I apologize …”
Blair Moore is due in court today for arraignment. Police are asking that he be charged with threatening a school official, possession of a weapon (a box cutter) on a school campus, and possession of marijuana on school grounds, in addition to the battery charge.
Image via Facebook