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California Teacher Fights Student: A New Heavyweight Champion of the World

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Infiniti Styles Bowie, Feature Writer

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Move over Mike Tyson, there’s a new Heavyweight Champion of the World, and his name is Marston Riley. The catch? He is a teacher. His opponent? A student.

Riley is a 64-year-old band teacher who taught at Maywood Academy High School in California. Instead of teaching students how to blow a tuba, however, Riley threw a few blows at one of his students.

The event took place last Friday after Riley addressed a student for wearing the wrong uniform. The student responded by repeatedly calling Riley the N-word, calling him a “b***h”, and threw his basketball at him. In turn, Riley became riled up and took his boxing gloves out of retirement.

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The brawl garnered mixed reviews from spectators. Some defended Riley, saying that the student deserved it for taunting him and being disrespectful.

Others believed the teacher was in the wrong, stating that he should have called security and had the student removed. Many pointed out that Riley actually threw the first hit, rebuking claims that he was defending himself.

 

Members of the Pace community were also divided on the fight, including some teachers themselves.  Jennifer Lee Magas, a former attorney and Media and Communications professor at Pace, said that while she understood Riley’s feelings, his behavior was unacceptable.

“The student in this video was clearly taunting the teacher [and] trying to provoke a confrontation, whether it be verbal or physical,” Magas said. “While I can empathize with how the teacher was feeling, it is never acceptable for a teacher to place his or her hands on a student unless that teacher is doing so in self-defense.”

As a former attorney, Magas had some insight as to what a court ruling would be if the student decides to take legal action against Riley.

“In this case, the teacher initiated the assault and battery,” Magas said, “and a court would disregard the fact the student provoked the attack.”

Overall, Magas believed that regardless of the student’s behavior, Riley should have handled the situation differently.

“While no teacher should be subjected to such disrespectful behavior, the reality is the teacher is the authority figure and had other avenues of dealing with the student’s behavior – which did not include physical contact,” Magas said.”The teacher is the adult and should have just called the main office and had him removed from the classroom.”

“The teacher should be suspended while the district investigates what happened and why,” Magas continued. “The outcome will depend upon the result of the investigation and school board policy regarding incidents of this nature. As it stands now, it does not look favorable for the teacher and he is likely to lose his job.”

The boxing match also conjured up mixed reactions from the students of Pace. Abria Doctor, a senior and an aspiring teacher, found it “difficult to have a definitive opinion.”

“As a future teacher, of course I don’t condone beating up a kid,” Doctor said, “but I can try to understand the situation. The kid was crazy disrespectful and probably deserves an [expletive] beating, but there are different ways to go about it.”

While Doctor understood Riley’s emotional state, she still didn’t approve of his actions.

“That teacher was probably fed up and has tried to gain respect [from] that kid in other ways but resorted to this,” the senior said. “I hope next time this student will think twice about being disrespectful to an adult. But at the same time, a teacher should not beat up a student. Ever.”

Doctor believed that both the teacher and the student were wrong and that one person could not solely take responsibility for the event.

“They were both wrong, bottom line,” Doctor said. “I want to say the teacher [was responsible] but I can’t because the student is old enough to know better than to hit an adult with a basketball and call him names.”

“It can be frustrating as a teacher to be disrespected by someone you’re there to guide, mentor, and educate, and he should have tried to deal with the situation another way,” Doctor continued. “But I do understand how it came to that.”

There is a saying that kids these days have no respect. According to Kevin Czerwinski, a Media and Communications professor at Pace, the student’s lack of respect appears to have greatly contributed to the fight.

“I think it’s sad that it came to that,” Czerwinski said. “The student clearly has no respect for the teacher, authority, and probably himself.”

However, Czerwinski still held the teacher responsible for his own actions, regardless of the student’s problems with authority.

“I don’t think the teacher was right though,” he said. “He should have controlled himself and called security. He is the adult in the room after all.”

At the end of the fight, Czerwinski said he felt sorry for both parties.

“Some kids have never been disciplined or taught respect, and clearly this young man is in that group,” Czerwinski said. “I feel sorry for him. And, I feel sorry for the teacher because his career is probably over.”

Riley was held on bail for $50,000 but has been since been released.

Is it right for a teacher to go all Rocky Balboa on a disrespectful student? Maybe not, but at least he will never again have to defend his title.

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