A local elementary school teacher allegedly caught on video in a bizarre confrontation with skateboarding students has once again been placed on administrative leave after parents threatened to protest over his planned return, an Orange County school district spokeswoman told KTLA on Tuesday.
Parents were angered by a video posted to YouTube last June that purported to show the teacher attacking students who were skateboarding outside a skate shop in San Clemente.
The video showed a man wearing a blue shirt approaching one skateboarder and grabbing his board. The man then walked up to another young male skateboarder and raised the board in a threatening manner, making it appear as though he was about to strike him. Instead, the man in the blue shirt tossed the skateboard into the air.
It was unclear if anything had occurred between the man and the skateboarders before the incident that was caught on video.
In an emailed statement, Beth Ewing, the principal for Cielo Vista Elementary School in Rancho Santa Margarita, confirmed a staff member “was arrested and charged on felony counts stemming from conduct revealed in a You Tube video.”
The employee was removed from the school and placed on leave pending court proceedings, Ewing said, adding that the school district staff viewed the video and found it to be “disturbing.”
The employee was later reinstated in a support role after the “felony counts” were reduced to a misdemeanor, according to Ewing.
School officials would not confirm the identity of the employee, but parents and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office have identified him as Thomas Hammer.
After learning Hammer would be returning to the school, parents threatened on Monday night to protest by keeping their kids at home on Tuesday.
“We feel that we do not want him to return at all. Period. We want him to be fired and removed from the school at once,” said parent Shane Unurh, who was among those threatening to pull their kids out of the school.
But on Tuesday morning, Tammy Blakely, a spokeswoman for Saddleback Unified School District, said he had been placed on leave again.
“He has been placed on leave…within the past 24 hours,” Blakely said.
Unurh expressed support for the decision after it was announced.
“I’m very happy with the district’s decision, and that we don’t have to keep our kids out of school,” he said.
Others, however, said they were disappointed that the school only placed him on leave and did not outright dismiss him from the school.
“Until the district…can guarantee that Mr. Hammer will not be back, neither will my children,” one mother told KTLA.
Some parents and students outside the school expressed their support for Hammer.
“I was surprised, and the thing is, I know everyone makes mistakes and we don’t know the back story of it, and what the kids may have done, or what was going on with his day that made him to do a little flip out,” said parent Shane Urban. “But I believe everyone deserves a second chance.”
One student outside the sign was carrying a sign welcoming Hammer back to the school.
Farrah Emami, a spokesperson for the Orange County DA’s office, said Hammer still faced a misdemeanor assault charge. She added that he was due back in court for a pre-trial hearing on Thursday.
KTLA’s Wendy Burch, Carolyn Costello and Nidia Becerra Tijerino contributed to this report.