Teaching Profession

Teacher’s Suspension After Wrestling Student Sparks Controversy

By Ross Brenneman — April 08, 2014 2 min read
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“Just say no to drugs” might be the common refrain, but here’s an addendum: “Especially don’t deal drugs when the school wrestling coach is looking.”

That’s one possible lesson to take away from an incident at Santa Monica High School, in California, that ended in a teacher-student wrestling match. According to reporting by KTLA-TV, science teacher Mark Black witnessed one of his students engaged in a drug deal at some point and confronted him about it. The presence of drugs hasn’t been substantiated, though, and the only thing that we know for sure at this point is what followed, because, naturally, another student recorded it on a phone:

Black also happens to be the school’s wrestling coach, so the brawl that developed likely had a predetermined outcome.

In any case, after watching footage of the incident, district superintendent Sandra Lyon suspended Black pending an investigation. In a statement to the school community, she said, “I am committed to ensure that any disciplinary action taken in this matter is based on facts, the law and all students’ right to a safe learning environment.”

What’s actually publicly known outside of the fact that the fight occurred? Just about nothing. The video shows Black pressed up on a table at the beginning of the fight, but doesn’t make it clear whether he might have touched the student first. The classroom has otherwise mostly cleared out, though with an undetermined number of students watching from the back. (You’ll notice that none of them intervened, either.)

Statements have poured in supporting Black and criticizing the suspension, though it doesn’t seem out of bounds that a superintendent would want a teacher found wrestling a student in a classroom to be temporarily removed until knowing more.

The Santa Monica incident is the latest in a string of volatile teacher-student interactions. Last month, for instance, police arrested a Baker, La., teacher for allegedly physically preventing an unruly student from entering her classroom, in a case that brought down scrutiny on police there for overreacting.

UPDATE (1:30 p.m.): Santa Monica police arrested two students Monday in connection with the fight, according to the Los Angeles Times. An 18-year-old, Blair Moore, is due in court today, and police are expected to press for a slew of charges, including threatening a school official, battery, possession of a weapon (a box cutter), and possession of marijuana on school grounds. Police also arrested, but did not identify, a 16-year-old on related charges.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.