A Santa Monica High School teacher and wrestling coach caught on cell phone videos fighting with a student Friday was placed on leave pending an investigation into the incident, the school district superintendent announced.
According to a letter sent to parents by Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent Sandra Lyon, no one was injured in the classroom confrontation between teacher Mark Black and a student whose name has not been released.
But Lyon said she was alarmed by what she saw of the videos capturing the fight, which caused Santa Monica police to come to the school.
"We really don't want teachers putting their hands on other students,” the superintendent said. “We really want everyone to act in a way that keeps each other safe."
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Based on what she has seen, the “physical restraint” used by the teacher was “unacceptable,” Lyon wrote.
A Santa Monica police spokesman declined to comment on the incident and instead referred questions to the school district.
“We have been in contact with the student's family, and we will work with them to offer the support that they may need,” Lyon wrote. “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.”
Students claim Black confronted their classmate about alleged illegal activity.
"The little boy was selling drugs in class," said Kylan Townsend, a student. "The wrestling coach told him to stop ... I guess he didn't listen and tables were thrown. They started fighting."
"The kid said like, 'Hey, get off me,'" said student Sam Wittert. "And he pushed the coach. And the coach, like, pushed him up against the wall."
Parent Skipp Townsend believes Black could have handled the situation better.
"The teacher was in a position where he could have controlled the situation without using violence," he said. "But I definitely understand being frustrated with the children being out of compliance."
School security and Santa Monica police intervened and the student was detained.
Neither the superintendent nor police would discuss the boys' status Friday night.
Some think Black got a raw deal.
"Yeah, I think he should come back first day after spring break," said senior Sam Borghese. "He's old. I think he's 50 or 60, something along those lines. He's about to retire!"
City News Service contributed to this report.