MAYWOOD, Calif. – People have given thousands of dollars to support a California high school music teacher who was arrested Friday after a classroom fistfight between him and a student was caught on video, officials said.
Marston Riley, 64, was taken into custody on suspicion of child abuse and causing great bodily injury on a child after the brawl at Maywood Academy High School on Pine Avenue was reported to authorities around 1:30 p.m., said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Joana Warren, a public information officer with the department.
Detectives with the agency's Special Victims Bureau are now investigating the case, Warren added. Crisis counselors and increased security welcomed students back to a school in Maywood Monday.
Riley, who was released after posting a $50,000 bail Saturday, spoke out in a video posted to a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for his legal fees. In the video, Riley thanks those who are helping him, as well as Cecilia Diaz Jimenez, the woman who set up the fundraiser. Jimenez says she has worked at Maywood for four years. As of Monday afternoon, supporters had already donated more than $40,000 of the $50,000 goal.
The students said the confrontation began after Riley asked the young man to leave the classroom because he wasn't wearing a proper uniform.
The student allegedly refused, and cellphone video captured by another student shows him challenging the instructor, using profanity and repeatedly hurling a racial slur at Riley, who is black.
The situation escalates further after the student throws a basketball at Riley, who is then seen pulling out his cellphone to call for backup.
The student continues to insult and provoke Riley. The teacher holds his composure for a time but then punches the boy in the face, swiftly and without warning.
The ensuing brawl lasts about 30 seconds, with the pair clambering across the room as Riley repeatedly delivers blows and others in the classroom shriek. The boy is only able to deliver about one punch.
The video shows Riley continued to aggressively pursue the student even after other school officials responded to break up the fight.
The footage ends as the student is being pulled from the room by campus staff.
On Monday, Los Angeles Unified School District officials issued a statement about the incident, saying they are "extremely disturbed" by the video.
"We take this matter very seriously and do not condone violence or intolerance of any kind," the statement read. "Los Angeles Unified is cooperating with law enforcement in investigating this incident. Crisis counselors and additional School Police patrols will be at the school today and throughout this week to support our students and staff."
Parents were shocked at the altercation.
"They are both at fault. The teacher should have called the school police, and he should have let them handle it, but the student also has a fault too because he was provoking him," one parent told KTLA.
Students who spoke with KTLA Friday night were all sympathetic to Riley, saying the classmate involved had pushed him to the brink.
Several students spoke with KTLA Friday night on the condition of anonymity.
One alleged that the situation was a setup.
"Everything was planned out," he said. "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."
Another spoke up in defense of the music instructor's character.
"I had this teacher before and I had no problem with him," that student said. "He was a really nice teacher, I always respected him. He always had a really good relationship with every student."
Riley is scheduled to appear in court at the end of November.