SANTA MONICA (CNS) - A Santa Monica High School science teacher who was placed on leave after being caught on video fighting with a student he had confronted about drugs in class will be back at work today.
Mark Black, who is also the school's wrestling coach, was placed on paid leave after the April 4 confrontation, which led to the arrests of two students. The move sparked outrage among some parents and students who have been rallying in support of Black.
A Facebook page created to support the teacher has been ``liked'' by more than 23,700 people.
"Based on what we have learned, it is appropriate to return Mr. Black from paid administrative leave at this time,'' Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent Sandra Lyon said on Friday.
District officials said they expect to receive an investigator's report on the fight by the middle of this week.
Lyon noted that because the school has been on spring break for two weeks, Black has not missed any time in the classroom.
"I want to make it very clear that Mark Black was not fired or suspended from his job; he was simply placed on leave with pay during the investigation,'' Lyon said.
Lyon came under criticism for comments she made in the days after the classroom confrontation, with some saying she had jumped to conclusions about Black's actions, which she called ``unacceptable.'' She later apologized and said placing Black on leave was standard procedure.
Members of the district's board echoed that sentiment Friday, saying that placing Black on leave was not a determination he had done anything wrong.
``Mr. Black is a valued coach and educator and we owed him due process protections while the independent investigation was conducted,'' board Vice President Ralph Mechur said. ``We have honored that obligation.''
Two students were arrested in the aftermath of the fight, which was caught on cell phone video.
Blair Moore, 18, was charged with two counts of threatening a public school official, possession of a box cutter on school grounds, possession of marijuana on school grounds and force or violence against a school employee, all misdemeanors. He pleaded not guilty and is free on his own recognizance, due back in court Tuesday.
A 16-year-old student was also arrested. His name was not released due to his age.
Black can be seen on cellphone video grappling with a student he had apparently confronted about having marijuana.
No punches were thrown, but Black can eventually be seen on the video with his arms locked around the student's legs, on the classroom floor.
District officials said they plan to undertake a pair of policy reviews in response to the fight and the response to it. A committee of school and district officials will review policies and procedures for dealing with ``non-compliant'' students.
Santa Monica High School principal Eva Mayoral will convene a panel including administrators, parents, students and employers to ``discuss the issues and assertions that emerged as a result of this incident,''
``It is imperative that this committee addresses these issues thoughtfully, collaboratively and quickly so that we can take some positive steps immediately and factor their suggestions into the next school year at Samohi,'' Mayoral said.
'`We must engage in a constructive, productive dialogue that will move us forward as a united school community, ensure greater campus safety and assist in maintaining the positive, supportive school culture we so value at Samohi.''
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