LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools has fired a Marion C. Moore School teacher who fought with a student in August.
JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio terminated William Bennett after a district investigation found the former Moore high school teacher had engaged in and escalated a physical altercation with a student Aug. 23, and that there were issues with his materials when he applied to teach at JCPS, according to a Dec. 16 letter and other records obtained by WDRB News.
The Aug. 23 incident, captured on video and shared widely, began with a verbal altercation between Bennett and 16-year-old Jamir Strane over the appropriateness of the teenager's mask, the investigative report says. Bennett told investigators that he believed the teenager had headphones concealed under a bandana and that Strane became aggressive when he was asked to wear a different mask, according to the report.
Strane said in an interview with WDRB News after the incident that the chemistry teacher told him that he was "just going to be another Black boy shot" during the incident. Bennett recalled saying "Do you think running your mouth like that is what got you shot?" before he was punched from behind by Strane, according to the investigation report.
Strane survived a drive-by shooting when he was 15, a point noted by JCPS investigators who called the exchange "disparaging," "triggering" and "escalating" in the district's report of the incident.
Bennett was seen by witnesses and surveillance video tackling Strane in the school's hallway, pulling and refusing to release the teenager's hair despite efforts from staff and students for about a minute, and trying to strike Strane with his knees, according to the incident report that does not identify Strane or other JCPS students.
"Multiple witnesses and video surveillance support the conclusion that you used excessive force during the altercation," Pollio wrote in the Dec. 16 letter to Bennett.
Bennett tried "multiple attempts" to engage in another physical altercation with Strane after the two were separated, the investigation report says.
Bennett told investigators that he was trying to get to the school counselor's office, not engage Strane again.
"School video footage of the incident is not consistent with Mr. Bennett's statement about attempting to leave the incident by going into the counselor's office," the investigation report says. "Furthermore, school video footage showed Mr. Bennett walk at least ten feet past the entrance to the counseling office and made no effort to walk into the counseling officer."
Strane told WDRB News he was suspended for 10 days and charged with assault following the incident.
JCPS also identified multiple problems with Bennett's employment materials when he applied to teach for the district, such as omitting Education Professional Standards Board cases against him and his termination by Elizabethtown Independent Schools.
Bennett, who could not immediately be reached for comment, has not appealed his termination to the district's knowledge, according to JCPS Communications Manager Mark Hebert.
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