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Santa Monica High Teacher Fight Video Triggers Backlash

Even Superintendent Sandra Lyon later wrote a memo to the school board, which acknowledged "many teachers at Samohi were upset with my earlier message."

Superintendent Sandra Lyon. Patch file photo.
Superintendent Sandra Lyon. Patch file photo.

Video of a Santa Monica High School student being subdued by a wrestling coach, supposedly after selling marijuana in his classroom, is becoming a worldwide web sensation, but has triggered a backlash from parents, teachers, students and alumni.

The teacher's boss sent a letter home Friday stating "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."

Based on what she has seen, the "physical restraint" used by teacher Mark Black was "unacceptable," wrote Sandra Lyon, superintendent of the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District.

That infuriated many in Santa Monica, and a Facebook page supporting "Coach Black" passed 2,500 members in a half day.

The incident, according to student witnesses who spoke to TV stations, started when the teacher tried to confiscate a bag of cannabis and was set upon by the teenager. Black was reportedly stabbed by the student with a pencil.

No punches were thrown, and Black eventually can be seen with his arms locked around the student's legs, on the floor.

Witnesses told TV stations the student was arrested, but the teacher was not. A Santa Monica police spokesman declined to comment on the incident and instead referred questions to the school district.

And answers from SMMUSD to those questions angered many. Lyon, in her letter to parents, wrote "we have been in contact with the student's family, and we will work with them to offer the support that they may need.

"I am grateful that there is no reported serious physical harm to students or teachers, but that neither dismisses the severity of this situation nor my commitment to gather all the facts and make sure the proper actions are taken," Lyon wrote.

That infuriated many teachers and parents. On Facebook, they rallied around "Coach Black."

"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, who identified himself as 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."

The Los Angeles Times reported that Lyon later wrote a memo to the school board, which acknowledged "many teachers at Samohi were upset with my earlier message, as many, even those involved in the end of the incident, had not seen what happened prior to that."

The Times also quoted a Lyon memo to another teacher: "I am sorry if my earlier message disappointed Samohi staff," she wrote.

"Clearly, this video is only a piece of this story and many people only have seen or heard a part of the story," she wrote in the memo obtained by The Times. "I can assure that any future action will be based on the full investigation."

--City News Service


Hilary Kenny-Lourie April 05, 2014 at 07:47 PM
Where is the support for the teacher in this announcement from Sandra Lyon? obviously there is more to this story but she seems to have pre judged the situation in favor of the student before the investigation. If a student had been dealing drugs on the campus where my kid went to school I would have given this teacher a medal not suspension.
Mark Kaufman April 05, 2014 at 08:33 PM
Ms. Lyon, I'm totally appalled at your very poor judgment and leadership skills !! Here you are a supposed well educated woman and you're suppose to know how to do your job !! So, what happened ????? You have angered a lot of people due to your foot in the mouth action as well as your poor investigation skills. So, what's next ?? !!!
Val Streit April 06, 2014 at 11:25 AM
So it is ok for this kid to be selling drugs in school? The parents need support...please the parents are where the problem starts. Ms. Lyon you made a knee jerk reaction when you did NOT have all the facts. Stop blaming Mr. Black for this. The kid is in the wrong and Mr. Black should not suffer any consequence for this. Even when I went to the laid back hippie Olympic High in 1970, we knew better than to even bring drugs on campus, let alone sell them. I think that the parents should be held accountable and the kid be taken away. Kids today do not have to suffer a consequence for what they do. Parents are afraid of them because there is no physical threat these days that the parents can impose. Keep the kid in Juvenile Hall and let the system deal with him.
Glenn E Grab April 10, 2014 at 12:58 PM
this idiot supervisor should be fired
Glenn E Grab April 10, 2014 at 01:07 PM
fire Ms Lyons

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