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Investigator brought in to examine Santa Monica classroom fight

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An outside investigator has been brought in to examine a classroom altercation between a teacher and student that resulted in the Santa Monica High School instructor being placed on leave and the pupil’s arrest.

Supt. Sandra Lyon said the report is expected by the end of spring break next week.

Lyon has come under fire for her remarks after a cellphone video of the classroom fight went viral. The superintendent was sharply critical of the teacher, and pledged support to the student’s family.

The video shows science teacher Mark Black wrestling with a student, grabbing him by the thigh before crashing into desks and eventually pinning the student to the floor.

Hours after the incident, Lyon released a statement calling it “utterly alarming” and said the teacher’s use of physical restraint was “unacceptable." The superintendent said she placed the teacher on leave and pledged support to the student’s family.

Supporters of the teacher, though, said he had properly quelled a troublesome student and kept others in the classroom from being possibly injured. As the backlash built, Lyon apologized for her remarks and acknowledged her statement “caused great anger.”

And in an interview with The Times this week, Lyon reiterated that she “could have done a better job choosing [her] words.” She also stressed that placing Black on paid administrative leave was “a matter of protocol and standard procedure” and part of the teacher’s “due process.”

Lyon said no further action would be taken until the independent investigation is completed. However she pledged that the district would conduct a review of its policies and procedures around student safety, as well as a review of campus climate and drug use.

“We may have assumptions about what teachers already know,” she said. “I don’t want any staff member putting themselves in harm’s way or in any way doing something that would endanger themselves or others.”

Lyon said she has received threatening emails and phone calls from across the nation, and fears that some of her critics from outside the community may not know the “complete story.”

“I include myself in regretting that I made judgmental statements before I really had all the facts,” Lyon said. “So I really do sincerely apologize for any confusion or harm that any of my words may have caused in what’s clearly an already contentious situation.”

Tuesday, more details emerged as the 18-year-old student pleaded not guilty to multiple misdemeanor charges in connection with the teacher tangle.

Blair Moore was arraigned on a variety of charges related to the classroom altercation, including two counts of threatening a public school official, one count of possession of a box cutter on school grounds and one count of possessing marijuana on school grounds, Santa Monica Police Sgt. Jay Moroso said in a statement.

The student was also charged with a single count of “force or violence against a school employee in retaliation for an act performed in the course of his or her duties,” police said.

Police previously said they were also seeking a battery charge against a 16-year-old student who was not identified because of his age, and whose court date had not been determined.

Lyon said she could not discuss the Friday incident, but acknowledged that “the issue of drugs is something that’s a challenge for all of the educators who work in comprehensive public high schools across the country.”

She said she could not comment on any possible conversations she has had with Black since the incident, but added that the coach “has huge respect within the community. He is obviously a beloved educator.”

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matt.stevens@latimes.com

Twitter: @MattStevensLAT

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