A Kentucky teacher who was seen in a viral video pinning a student to the ground and pulling his hair was terminated from his position, according to documents obtained by Insider.
William Bennett, a former science teacher at Marion C. Moore School in Louisville, was fired last month after a Jefferson County Public Schools investigation found that Bennett “escalated the situation” and made “inappropriate comments” about the student, per a termination letter.
The letter stated that the incident, which occurred in August 2021, unfolded as such: the student, 16-year-old Jamir Strane, appeared to have initiated the fracas by punching Bennett in the back of the head, then Bennett “caught the student” and put his “whole body weight on top of him.”
In videos of the incident that have been posted to social media, students witnessing the altercation can be heard yelling, “get the fuck off him” to Bennett and trying to help Strane get out from under him.
Though another adult emerged to deescalate the situation, resulting in Strane walking away from Bennett, the letter states that Bennett “proceeded to engage in the altercation.” Bennett reportedly followed Strane down the hallway, had a verbal exchange with the student, and kicked him.
According to the letter, Bennett admitted to saying something to Strane “about being shot,” which “provoked” the student and set off the initial verbal incident.
An unnamed student quoted in the report stated that he overheard Bennett tell Strane he was “just another Black boy that got shot.”
Neither Strane nor Bennett responded to Insider’s requests for comment. However, Strane previously told outlets that he had been shot in a drive-by shooting in 2020 and that he punched Bennett after the teacher said he was “going to end up in the streets dead.”
According to a report from Child Protective Services, Bennett’s comments were “triggering” for Strane, “who suffers ongoing emotional trauma as a previous gunshot victim.”
Bennett told district investigators that he did not believe his comments were disparaging as Strane had previously bragged about the shooting, per the report.
The report also states that Bennett referenced the Kentucky state statue on self-defense and force — which allows a person to use physical force to defend themselves if they believe it is necessary to protect against the use of imminent force by another person — and showed investigators pictures of his non-white family members to “dispel any myths of being a racist portrayed in the media.”
Traci Hunt, the principal of Marion C. Moore School, told district investigators that Bennett previously refused to complete the school’s mandatory implicit bias training and was involved with a previous incident with a school counselor, leading her to have concerns about his performance as a teacher before the altercation.
The district investigation also revealed that Bennett, who can appeal his recent termination, had at least one other physical run-in with a student at a previous job.
The student’s mother, Erica Strane, filed a lawsuit against Bennett and Jefferson County Public Schools, on Wednesday, according to her lawyer, Aubrey Williams.
The lawsuit alleges that Bennett reportedly slammed and pummeled Jamir, restraining him while “yelling obscenities, profanity and racial slurs at him.”
There are discrepancies between the lawsuit’s categorization of the incident and the findings of the district investigation. Videos of the incident do not appear to show Bennett punching Jamir or yelling racial slurs at him.
Nonetheless, the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, argues that Jamir suffered “physical, mental, emotional stress, strain, and humiliation” as a result of the incident.
A representative said the district does not comment on pending litigation.