It's a scene that probably goes down in gym classes across America at least once a week: a teen girl opts out of swimming that day for a reason the gym teacher doesn't accept. Maybe she forgot her swimsuit at home or maybe it's that time of the month. Or hey, just maybe—as in this latest case—she doesn't want to get her hair ruined because she's going out that night. Whatever the reason, the gym teacher most likely makes note of it in his or her grade book and docks the student a point or two for the day. End of story, right?
Except that's not what happened next in a Stockton, Calif., school back in August. In fact, a grainy cell phone video, which is now going viral, shows that physical education teacher Denny Peterson not only didn't accept the hair excuse as a valid reason to skip the pool, but he also forcibly tried to drag the student into the pool after she refused to get in. The 95-second clip is pretty upsetting to watch, and shows the gym teacher dragging 14-year-old Sandra Garcia across the tiled pool floor by her hands and feet, as she protests and says "no" over and over. Around her, classmates watch in shock—even as she calls out that her bikini top is coming off.
"This isn't a situation where she's attacking a teacher, and he's defending himself," said Gilbert Somera, an attorney representing the victim and her family. "When a woman or a 14-year-old girl says no, it means no."
After the incident reached the ears of administrators at Edison High School, Peterson was immediately placed on paid leave for one month. He was later reassigned to another school in the district, but as the girl's parents have taken legal action and the video has gone viral, the gym teacher was again placed on paid leave while awaiting his fate.
Peterson has been charged with causing corporal injury to a child because of the incident, which will most likely also lead to a lawsuit.