Thomas Hammer was suspended as a teacher at Cielo Vista Elementary School in Rancho Santa Margarita after school officials learned he was looking at a felony last June for apparently losing his temper, taking a kid's skateboard and raising the slat as if to hit another kid. Hammer returned to a second-grade classroom Monday, which is also when video of the bizarre incident was publicized, prompting a parental protest and–this morning–the teacher being placed on administrative leave a second time.
Just to be clear, the incident did not happen on campus but outside a San Clemente skateboard shop. Hammer appears to be just walking up when he suddenly takes one kid's skateboard, runs with it to a second young skateboarder, raises the board as if to strike the second kid with it and then tries unsuccessfully to throw the board onto a balcony. The videographer says Hammer was a stranger to the group–and strange:
It was Cielo Vista Elementary parents who identified Hammer as the man in the video, and the Saddleback Valley Unified School District confirmed that he had been placed on leave once officials were informed of the incident.
When felony charges against Hammer were knocked down to misdemeanors, he was reinstated Monday in a role that has him working in a "support role" with other teachers–but not in the classroom–for the remainder of the school year, according to district spokeswoman Tammy Blakely.
Because of Hammer's return, 20-25 students did not come to school this morning as a protest. Parents explained they fear the teacher has anger management issues that have not been addressed and they fear their children finding themselves alone with him. To be fair, at least one parent also indicated Hammer deserves a second chance. Records indicate Hammer has been with the district since 1998.
An email to parents from the school principal this morning states Hammer has again been placed on administrative leave. Because the message does not indicate the length of the leave or whether Hammer will be paid, one parent told KTLA today that she will continue to keep her boys out of school.
"Until the district can guarantee Mr. Hammer won't be back, neither will my children," she said.