Last month, William Bennett, a white high school science teacher at Marion C. Moore School in Louisville, KY was fired three months after being “involved in a physical altercation with one of his Black students.”
Another student captured a video of the incident, which went viral and shows Bennett pinning 16-year-old Jamir Strane to the ground and pulling at Strane’s hair while students in the background are repeatedly yelling “get the f–k off him.”
Immediately after the altercation, Strane spoke with local news outlets providing his account, “As I’m transitioning into my fourth period class, which is chemistry, going to his classroom, he tells me I’m not able to walk into his classroom with the bandana that I have on, but it’s a face mask. This is the first time, but I’ve worn it before in the classroom, that’s why I don’t get what he’s saying…He said, ‘You’re going to end up in the streets dead.’”
Bennett’s racist comment was provoking to Strane who had been involved in a drive-by shooting the prior summer in July of 2020, which caused Strane to punch Bennett. Strane was suspended for fighting with a teacher, and said, “I understand, I was in the wrong, but you don’t have a right to put your hands on me.” Indeed, a Child Protective Services report stated that “Bennett’s comments were ‘triggering’ for Strane, ‘who suffers ongoing emotional trauma as a previous gunshot victim.’” Strane said that “Bennett kneed him in the face and left him with a bloody skinned knee near his gunshot wounds.”
Per Bennett’s termination letter from Jefferson County Public Schools, obtained by Insider, even after another adult entered the fracas in a de-escalation attempt, Bennett “‘proceeded to engage in the altercation’ [and] reportedly followed Strane down the hallway, had a verbal exchange with the student, and kicked him…An unnamed student quoted in the report stated that he overheard Bennett tell Strane he was ‘just another Black boy that got shot.’”
Principal of Marion C. Middle School, Traci Hunt, spoke with district investigators and told them 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.” In trying to clear his name of racist allegations during the investigation, Bennett “presented photos of his non-white family members.”
What’s worse is that this isn’t even the first time that Bennett has faced disciplinary action from a school district for getting involved into yet “another physical altercation with another student.” After being arrested in February 2001, he was fired from Elizabethtown Independent. While Bennett maintains the charges were dismissed and that he had been invited to return back to Elizabethtown to teach, there are no corresponding personnel documents that corroborate his version of events.
Jamir’s mother, Erica Strane, is filing a lawsuit against both Jefferson County Public Schools and Bennett, seeking unspecified damages, arguing “that Jamir suffered ‘physical, mental, emotional stress, strain, and humiliation’ as a result of the incident,” according to Strane’s lawyer, Aubrey Williams.