HEWLETT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A shouting match was caught on camera between a teacher and a student on Long Island, and the teacher has found himself suspended from the classroom.
But on Tuesday, some students rallied to support physical education teacher Chris Passuello, and said he was just doing his job.
A heated exchange between Passuello and a student was recorded in gym class at Hewlett High School. It happened after the student apparently refused to put down his phone.
“You don’t listen to anyone! I am respectfully asking you to put your phone down! You don’t! I’m respectfully asking you to stop talking! You don’t!” Passuello says in the video as he raises his voice at the student. “You just don’t stop!”
Angry words escalate into obscenities.
“You don’t need to touch your face on my face! That’s the thing! You don’t have to take my f***ing bubble!” the student yells back.
“You are so tough! You’re tough!” the teacher says sarcastically. “This is really intimidating!”
Tensions escalate after the student uses the N word.
“You’re calling me a n****r?” the coach says. “Get out of the class!”
The three-minute exchange, with thousands of online views, prompted the suspension of the teacher, fondly called Coach Paz.
On Tuesday, students rallied to get Passuello his job back, holding signs and chanting, “Free Coach Paz!”
“He is a wonderful, wonderful educator and mentor,” said Hewlett High School junior Brianna Azimov. “And he really – he doesn’t just teach you the curriculum. He teaches you life lessons.”
Azimov applauds the coach for tough love, standing up to a disruptive student.
“And to see a teacher finally do his job and put his foot down and say, ‘Enough is enough, put the phone away or get out,’ and the student to disrespect him in that manner, was absolutely ridiculous,” Azimov said.
“They always like say, ‘Go outside, take a walk,’ you know, ‘Don’t do that,’ whatever,” said Brianna’s mother, Zarina Azimov. “And finally, a teacher did a job.”
But others watched the video aghast that the teacher didn’t diffuse tensions.
“I wouldn’t want someone talking to my child like that,” one mother said.
“I have a 15-year-old son in a high school and I would never – never, ever, ever – have any teacher speak to him that way,” another said.
The school district would not comment, citing privacy. The student, who was not identified publicly, refused to leave the classroom.
Witness George Mukuka said the teacher should be the grown up.
“He was being disrespected, but he should have been more of a teacher instead of using that word back at him,” Mukuka said.
The student could not be reached for comment. Friends said he was also suspended.
There was also no comment from the coach, and there was no word late Tuesday on when and if he will be reinstated.