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Controversial Santa Monica High School Student-Teacher Confrontation Sparks Rally

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By Jason Islas
Lookout reporter

April 15, 2014 -- About 100 people rallied in front of City Hall Sunday afternoon in support of Mark Black, the Santa Monica High School teacher whose physical confrontation with a student earlier this month grabbed national headlines.

Two students have been charged with battery and Black was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation of the April 4 incident, a video of which quickly went viral, spawning a wide range of reactions from people all over the country.

Black “has always been a mentor and a crucial part of every decision I have made,” said Tim Conley, who graduated from Santa Monica High School in 1995.

Conley, a former student of Black’s, was one of the organizers of Sunday’s event, which he said was about setting the record straight.

“There’s been a lot of finger-pointing out there,” said Conley, who shortly after the April 4 incident launched the Facebook group “We Support Coach Black of Samohi,” which has received more than 23,000 “likes.”

Since the incident on April 4, a national debate has taken place via social media and email, with people weighing in on what they believe really happened based on a video showing the long-time wrestling coach and science teacher wrestling a student to the ground.

The video does not show any of the events leading up to the confrontation, however.

Some criticized School District Supt. Sandra Lyon’s initial statement following the April 4 incident in which she called Black’s use of restraint on the student “unacceptable.” (“Santa Monica High Teacher Placed on Leave after ‘Deeply Disturbing’ Incident,” April 4, 2014)

She later apologized for her initial email, reaffirming her commitment to an impartial investigation.

While some have accused Black of attacking the student, others have celebrated him for standing up to a student who was allegedly attempting to sell drugs in class.

Following the incident, 18-year-old Blair Moore was charged with several misdemeanors, including possession of less than 28.5 grams of marijuana on school campus, possession of a box cutter and use of “force or violence against a school employee in retaliation for an act performed in the course of his or her duties,” according to police officials.

Moore, whose first trial date is May 6, has pleaded not guilty to all charges. (“Santa Monica High Student Pleads Not Guilty To All Charges,” April 9, 2014)

But Sunday’s rally wasn’t about who was right and who was wrong in the incident, said School Board member Oscar de la Torre.

 “It was really an acknowledgment that we need to support those people who support the youth of our community,” said de la Torre, who spoke at the rally.

Parks and Recreation Chair Phil Brock was also at Sunday’s rally.

“I think the ultimate lesson is not to prejudge a person's actions and to glean all the facts in a case before speaking out,” Brock said. “As a former coach and teacher, I appreciate his career and the impossible situation he was put in that day.”

While Sunday’s message was one of support for Black, de la Torre said that it also applied to the student.

“People stated that we’re a community that believes in redemption and young people make mistakes,” de la Torre said. “While this young man might not be allowed to return to Samohi, he does deserve a second chance to be a part of our community in good standing.”

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