LOCAL L.A. Now

Student pleads not guilty in fight with Santa Monica teacher

An 18-year-old Santa Monica High School student who authorities say tangled with his science teacher in a classroom last week pleaded not guilty Tuesday to multiple misdemeanor charges.

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.  

“Moore was released on his own recognizance … with an order not to harass, strike, threaten or assault the victims named in the case,” Moroso said. Moore is due back in court April 22 for a pretrial hearing.

The incident took place Friday in a Santa Monica High School classroom, according to a statement sent to parents, students and staff by the district superintendent.

A cellphone video of the incident shows the teacher, Mark Black, wrestling with an unidentified student, grabbing him by the thigh before crashing into desks and eventually pinning the student to the floor.

District school board member Oscar de la Torre said that the incident arose from a conflict over drug use. In letters to school officials and in television news interviews, parents and students made similar statements.

Hours after the incident, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Supt. Sandra Lyon released a statement calling the video clips shot on cellphones “utterly alarming” and the teacher’s use of physical restraint “unacceptable."

The superintendent said she placed the teacher on leave and pledged support to the student’s family.

But Lyon’s comments raised the anger of parents, some of whom fiercely defended Black and praised him for intervening. The superintendent later apologized.

Thousands of people liked a “We Support Coach Black of Samohi” Facebook page and signed a Change.org petition calling for Black's reinstatement.  

Daniel Jacobs, 32, a 1999 Santa Monica High School graduate, said he was so upset by Lyon's initial statement that he started his own Change.org petition, which asks Lyon to apologize.

Jacobs said that when he saw the video, his reaction was that it captured Black "trying to neutralize a threat."

Jacobs said that whenever he returns to Santa Monica, he makes a point of visiting Black. "I've never met a better or more kindhearted man in my life."

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matt.stevens@latimes.com

Twitter: @MattStevensLAT

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