SANTA MONICA (CBSLA.com) — A video showing a teacher and wrestling coach at Santa Monica High School fighting with a student that was captured on cell phone video has gone viral.
While the teacher and coach has been placed on leave, scores of students took to social media on Saturday to support him.
In a letter to parents, Sandra Lyon, the superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, said the altercation happened in a classroom Friday morning.
“A deeply disturbing incident involving a teacher and student occurred in a classroom at Santa Monica High School, resulting in the Santa Monica Police Department being called to the campus. 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,” Lyon wrote.
Lyon added, “Based on what I have viewed, the kind of physical restraint used by the teacher is unacceptable. I have placed the teacher on leave pending the outcome of an independent investigation.”
On Friday KCAL9’s Bobby Kaple reported that witnesses said the incident unfolded because the student was openly holding a bag of marijuana.
When the teacher, who students identified as science teacher Mark Black, tried to confiscate it, the student got physical.
On Saturday, KCAL9’s Cristy Fajardo said there was an outpouring of support for Black. On Facebook, a page backing Coach Black has thousands of “likes.”
There were also calls from many of these students for Lyon to resign.
She said many students and parentd fired off angry emails saying that Lyon acted hastily.
They also said it was clear the teacher was defending himself.
Parent Michelle Cardel said, “The coach has the entire community behind him. I think an investigation should be done before anyone rushes to judgment.”
The coach’s supporters vow to pack the next school board meeting, which is scheduled for the first week of May due to spring break.
On Saturday evening, Lyon sent Fajardo an email explaining her decision to put Black on leave.
“I want to emphasize that placing the teacher who was involved in this incident on leave pending completion of an investigation is a matter of standard policy and practice. It in no way prejudices the outcome of the investigation. No decision has been made, nor will any decision be made, before gathering and reviewing all the information,” she wrote.