Lead Story The Press West Edition

Teacher arrested after classroom fight with student

By Dorany Pineda

Contributing Writer

MAYWOOD — A teacher at Maywood Academy High School was arrested Nov. 2 after getting into a fight with a 14-year-old student in a classroom.

Marston Riley, a 64-year-old music teacher, was arrested for child abuse and booked at the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station that afternoon and was released the following morning after posting $50,000 bail. He will be arraigned Nov. 30 at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Courthouse.

Neither Riley, his attorney or Robert Jeffrey, the school’s union representative, could be reached for comment.

The fight occurred in a classroom as other students and a woman wearing a yellow safety vest tried to intervene. Other students –– many of whom overwhelmingly supported Riley –– stood by recording the fight on their cell phones.

In the videos, the boy is seen throwing a basketball at Riley –– who is African American –– and directing racial epithets at him before the teacher loses his composure and swings at the teen. The confrontation was allegedly over the student not wearing the proper school uniform.

The boy was transported to a local hospital where he was treated for moderate injuries and later was released, according to a report by the Los Angeles County Department’s Sheriff’s Information Bureau.

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner met with the school’s principal, teachers, counselors and parents Nov. 5 “to offer his full support to the school community during this challenging time,” district spokeswoman Shannon Haber said.

Crisis counselors also were available to students and the school was closely monitored by school police, Haber said.

The Los Angeles Unified School District said in a statement that it “does not condone hate, violence or intolerance.” “The incident we saw does not reflect the values of Maywood Academy High School and the wonderful teachers and students who make up the Maywood community,” Beutner said in the statement. “We will continue our work to make each school a safe and welcoming learning environment for students and to provide teachers and staff with the support they deserve.”

The incident has drawn mixed reaction, but Riley has received an overwhelming response of supporters while he is suspended from work with pay until further notice.

As of Nov. 7, thousands of people have donated more than $145,000 –– much more than its $50,000 goal –– for Riley, through a GoFundMe effort by Cecilia Diaz Jimenez, a former colleague and current school district employee.

“These funds will be spent to lessen any burdens that Mr. Riley may endure during this process,” she wrote.

On Nov. 3, Jimenez posted a YouTube video on the page with a message from Riley, who thanked all the supporters and called them a “blessing.”

Los Angeles civil rights activist Najee Ali also expressed support for Riley and called for the immediate expulsion of the student and for criminal charges to befiled agianst him as well.

“I don’t and will never condone violence used against a student by a teacher,” Ali said in a statement. “But I also don’t condone students using racial slurs and provoking a fight with their teacher. Both parties were wrong and should be held accountable. But without question, that student provoked the entire situation by calling his teacher the N-word.”

Ali and other community leaders, including the president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, urged District Attorney Jackie Lacey Nov. 5 to drop charges against Riley, arguing the “teacher’s actions were in self defense.”

“Riley’s arrest sends the dangerous message that students can abuse teachers with no fear of consequences,” Ali and Hutchinson said.

Faculty from Maywood Academy High School released a statement after the incident.

“Many Americans saw for the first time the deterioration of respect for teachers. … We have created an environment where disrespect, bullying and intolerance can thrive.”

Riley, who has taught at Maywood Academy for seven years, is respected by both teachers and students, CBS4 reported.

And that respect was seen on Nov. 5, when dozens of students protested outside the school in support of Riley, ABC7 reported. Some lifted signs that read “Justice for Riley” and referred to him as a “nice guy.”

The investigation is being handled by the Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau.