Injury during class demonstration raises questions at American River College

A martial arts demonstration during a communications class that ended with a former student injured has created an uproar at American River College.

Video of the incident, captured on a cellphone and uploaded to YouTube, shows two men playfully brawling on the floor of Professor Geoffrey Stockdale’s interpersonal communication class, while other students look on.

At one point during the 56-second clip, one man bumps his head on the ground and starts bleeding. Students are heard laughing, but the unidentified man insists he is fine and continues to wrestle. Stockdale is seen in the background watching the demonstration.

“No, I’m good. Don’t worry about it. I’m totally OK,” the injured man tells the group.

Stockdale, who declined to identify the injured man, said the individual is a former student not currently enrolled at the college.

The Monday evening incident was first reported by the American River Current, the student-run newspaper, which called the episode an “altercation.”

Footage of the incident and the subsequent newspaper report has stoked controversy on the community college campus. School officials said they are investigating the incident.

On Thursday, Stockdale criticized the student-run newspaper.

“They inflated it and sensationalized it,” the longtime communications professor said in an interview. “If it bleeds, it leads.”

The demonstration was part of a lesson in trust, the topic of the day, Stockdale said.

“It was a minor mishap. It was not an altercation,” he said.

Jeff Gonzales, co-editor in chief of the Current and co-author of the article, said the newspaper “stands behind anything we print.”

Kevin Messing, the martial art demonstrator who was not injured, agreed with Stockdale’s interpretation of events.

“There was no altercation. I was demonstrating a grappling maneuver on my friend that caused a small cut above his eye,” Messing told the Current. “This is no more of a story than if a student had stubbed his toe demonstrating a dance.”

Stockdale said he later instructed the injured man to “put pressure” on the wound.

Alejandro Garcia, 23, a student in one of Stockdale’s other classes, described the professor as “a cool guy with good teaching methods.”

“He lets you express yourself and speak your mind,” Garcia said, noting that Stockdale is well-liked by students.

American River College spokesman Scott Crow said the school is “taking this very seriously,” but that so far, no one has been disciplined.

Asked whether he was worried about his job, Stockdale said, “Not especially.”

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