McClatchy High School teacher David Fritz was arrested Friday on a misdemeanor charge of willful cruelty toward a child after what district officials said was possibly an alcohol-fueled classroom wrestling incident with a student.
The teacher was placed on leave after the incident was captured on cellphone video by several students, according to police and the Sacramento City Unified School District. Students concerned about Fritz brought the video to school administrators.
Administrators removed Fritz, 58, from the class and called law enforcement. Sacramento police later arrested him on suspicion of willful cruelty toward a child and said there were signs of alcohol impairment. He was released Friday night.
The district said that videos showed Fritz, dressed in a Halloween costume, appearing to wrestle a student on the floor of a classroom at the Land Park campus. As word spread of the incident, students said friends began widely sharing classroom footage Friday afternoon.
A seven-second clip posted on Twitter shows a teacher dressed in sunglasses; a puffy, red, polka dot hat; and black shirt, growling and throwing a student to the ground while he’s still seated in his desk. The teacher appears to be grabbing for the student’s cellphone.
David Garcia, 15, was the student in the video. The 11th-grader said after school Friday that Fritz entered the English class singing and dancing, but began cursing and yelling. Garcia said the teacher approached him for no known reason and pulled him from his desk.
Garcia said he laughed initially, then told Fritz to stop. Garcia said Fritz began teaching with no explanation of the behavior. Garcia said he and another student went to the vice principal after class and reported the behavior. Garcia said he was also interviewed by police.
Fritz still has black and white face paint in his booking photo released by police Friday afternoon. A message left at his Davis residence was not immediately returned.
He teaches English and has been a Sacramento City Unified School District teacher for 20 years, all at McClatchy, according to district spokesman Gabe Ross. The district declined a request for Fritz’s personnel record.
The district released the following statement:
“This incident is alarming and any type of behavior like this, regardless of the intent, is unacceptable. The district will investigate this matter fully and will continue to take every possible measure within our authority to ensure the safety and well-being of our students.”
Parents were told of the incident via an automated phone message.
Kassandra Diaz, 17, a senior at McClatchy, said she learned of the incident from her mother, who received a call from the school.
“I was kind of surprised,” Diaz said. “I don’t think teachers should put their hands on students.”
Jack Holzhauser, 18, a senior at McClatchy, said if something like that happened in a class he was in, “I would be like, ‘What’s going on here?’ It’s not appropriate.”
The McClatchy incident came four days after Florin High School’s principal was body-slammed to the floor as he tried to break up a student fight, an incident that also came to the fore after being captured in a student’s cellphone video.