SANTA MONICA - A cell phone video showing a teacher and wrestling coach at Santa Monica High School fighting with a student has gone viral and the teacher and coach have been placed on leave, reports CBS Los Angeles.
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."
CBS Los Angeles reports 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, reports the station.
According to the station, there has been an outpouring of support for Black on social media. Many argue it was clear that Black was defending himself. Some said Lyon acted hastily in placing him on leave and called for the superintendent to resign.
"The coach has the entire community behind him. I think an investigation should be done before anyone rushes to judgment," parent Michelle Cardel said, according to the station.
On Saturday evening, Lyon sent CBS Los Angeles an email explaining her decision to put Black on leave.
She wrote, "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."