Current and former students are coming to the defense of a high school music teacher who is facing child abuse charges after he got into a fight with a 14-year-old on Friday.
Marston Riley, who teaches at Maywood Academy, an alternative high school in Los Angeles, was standing in front of his band class Friday afternoon when he and a student got into an argument because the teen was not wearing his uniform, classmates and witnesses have said online and to local media.
The 64-year-old teacher, who is black, told the 14-year-old to leave the classroom, prompting the student to hurl a slew of insults, curse words, and racist comments at Riley. Students captured the incident on their cellphones and the footage quickly went viral.
In the video, sounds of horns quickly fall silent after the teen refuses to leave and calls the instructor the n-word several times. Riley then walks to stand near the student silently as the student continues to go off, saying what sounds like, "What's up, bro? You see me? I'm right here, nigger." The video then shows the teen throwing a basketball at the teacher.
After asking the student to leave again, Riley suddenly decks the teen and the two get into a brawl as other students pop up from their seats and scramble to get out of the way. A woman wearing a neon vest appears in the video and tries to intervene.
Authorities arrested the teacher on suspicion of child abuse. Riley was released after posting $50,000 bail, according to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 30. The department's Special Victims Bureau is now investigating the incident.
The 14-year-old was taken to the hospital and treated for moderate injuries, officials said.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News Sunday night, the Los Angeles Unified School District said it is "extremely disturbed by the reports of the events that occurred."
"We take this matter very seriously and do not condone violence or intolerance of any kind. Los Angeles Unified is cooperating with law enforcement in investigating this incident," the district said.
However, some students in the class and others who have taken Riley's music classes defended the teacher, saying that the student provoked him and that several other teens had attacked Riley last year.
Hailey Martinez, a junior who was in the room, told BuzzFeed News on Facebook Messenger that the class was in session and the student came in late and without a uniform on. Riley then asked the student to "put on your uniform shirt," she said.
"And he said 'nah wtf' and Mr. Riley told him to either get out or get a uniform shirt and the student started getting rowdy with him and he kept telling him you know like 'wtf you gonna do about it nigga' 'you gonna do shit' and threw him the basketball and Riley kept ignoring him and told him to leave twice and the kid didn’t listen and continue to talk shit to Riley and that’s when the fight happened," Martinez said, recounting the incident.
Nathalie Londono, who graduated from Maywood Academy last year and said she was in Riley's choir class, told BuzzFeed News that her former teacher "is really attentive, down to earth, and caring about his students." She added that last year, three students attacked Riley after he caught them outside class.
"They were caught ditching class and Mr.Riley just wanted to make things right and just send them back where they were supposed to be," she said.
"Everything was planned out," one teen told KTLA. "There were students there who were already taking out their phones to record the incident. I don't think it's completely fair that they're just putting the blame all on [Riley], when I personally know that he's a good guy."
A GoFundMe page for the teacher had raised nearly $20,000 by Sunday night. Riley did not respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.