Mark Black

Santa Monica High School science teacher and wrestling coach Mark Black was reinstated this week following an altercation with a student who allegedly possessed marijuana. 

Students went back to school after spring break on Monday and so did Mark Black, the Santa Monica High School teacher involved in a student-teacher altercation earlier this month.

Two students were arrested and Black, a science teacher and wrestling coach, was placed on paid leave after the fight, which was captured on cellphone video and circulated online and in the media.

In the video, a student and Black fight for about a minute. Black brings the student to the ground and holds him there.

Blair Moore, 18, and a 16-year-old are accused by Santa Monica police of battery against a school official. Moore is charged with possession of marijuana and a razor blade. He pled innocent to all charges last week.

The fight reportedly broke out after Black attempted to reprimand a student for having pot in the classroom.

“Based on what we have learned, it is appropriate to return Mr. Black from paid administrative leave, at this time,” said Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent Sandra Lyon in a statement.

District officials completed an internal investigation over spring break and Black’s reinstatement is based on the investigation’s preliminary results, district officials said. The district will get a final report on the investigation in the middle of next week.

“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 in the statement.

Initially, Lyon called Black’s actions “unacceptable,” stirring outrage among some. A “We Support Coach Black” Facebook page popped up and has garnered more than 23,600 followers to date. The Change.Org petition aimed at getting Black reinstated has more than 158,000 supporters.

Lyon later apologized for her initial comments and noted that Black’s paid leave was a standard procedure, not an accusation of wrong-doing.

“It is unfortunate that the widespread use of social media has triggered physical threats and inflammatory remarks impugning the character of our administrators,” Board of Education President Maria Leon-Vazquez said in the release. “Ms. Lyon has publicly apologized for a quickly conceived e-mail that afternoon that presented an incomplete picture of the incident and inflamed some segments of our community.”

Police are also investigating the altercation and have asked the district not to comment on details of the case.

Legally, district officials can’t speak about disciplinary action taken against any students.

Lyon has called for the review of two areas of policy in the district.

A committee will be formed to take a look at the trainings that staff undergoes “relating to noncompliant students.”

The goal is “to ensure that staff and students know what to do to prevent an altercation from occurring and what to do when an altercation is already underway,” the statement said.

Samohi Principal Eva Mayoral will pick a panel of staff, parents, and students to discuss the “issues and assertions that emerged as a result of this incident.”

“We must engage in a constructive, productive dialogue that will move us forward as a united school community, ensure even greater campus safety, and assist in maintaining the positive, supportive school culture we so value at Samohi,” Mayoral said.

Moore is due for a pre-trial hearing early next week.

A previous version of this story appeared in the Santa Monica Daily Press.

(1) comment

Matt Horns

From what little I know, it appears to me that Mr. Black did the right thing and one or more students were in the wrong.

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