Democracy Dies in Darkness


A teacher allegedly beat up a student who called him the n-word. Now he’s a $149,000 GoFundMe hero.

November 7, 2018 at 7:22 PM

A racial taunt turned a California classroom into the site of a brawl between two unlikely participants last week: a 64-year-old music teacher and a 14-year-old student. Days later, thousands of supporters have flooded a GoFundMe account, raising more than $149,000.

The altercation began at Maywood Academy High School when Marston Riley asked a male student, who was improperly dressed and in violation of the school uniform rules, to leave the room, the Sacramento Bee reported. A cellphone video shows the teenager refusing, then throwing a basketball at the teacher, who is black, and saying, “Why you wisecracking, my n-----?”

The Sacramento Bee also reported that Riley appeared to call for backup from school authorities.

Riley then let loose on the boy, reportedly pummeling him repeatedly. Some students looked on or jumped in to break up the fight. Others pulled out smartphones and recorded the brawl.

The student was taken to a hospital. Riley was arrested Friday on child-abuse charges by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s special victims bureau.

Cecilia Diaz Jimenez, a former colleague and current school district employee, quickly launched a GoFundMe page to raise funds for Riley’s legal fees, writing: “He is going to need all the help he can get. Be mindful that the school district is looking at dismissing him and I would not doubt if the student’s parents are looking into pressing criminal charges. I am sure Mr. Riley will need money to pay any fines, fees and lawyers.”

Related: A Florida teacher drowned wild raccoons with his students’ help. Here’s why he won’t be charged.

Since Riley’s arrest, Jimenez has updated the page with the teacher’s status. On Saturday, she posted a YouTube video with a message from Riley, who called the donors a “blessing.”

In four days, the campaign surpassed $149,000, far more than its $50,000 goal.

Jimenez is not alone in her support of Riley.

On Monday, students gathered outside the school holding posters lined with music notes that read: “Riley deserves better” and “Justice for Riley.”

Najee Ali, a local parent, also told The Washington Post that he supports Riley.

“Many of us identify with this teacher, who is loved and respected by his students. We don’t condone physical violence against any student, but we also don’t condone racial slurs or threats directed at any teacher,” he said.

The faction supporting Riley also intends to hire a private investigator to “search for the truth,” Ali said.

Riley has since posted a $50,000 bond and was released Saturday, according to the Sheriff’s Department. He is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 30; the local district attorney’s office does not have a case filed against Riley, who could not be reached for comment.

After Riley’s release, the Los Angeles Unified School District issued a statement Monday calling the behavior “disturbing.”

“We take this matter very seriously and do not condone violence or intolerance of any kind,” the statement said.

A spokesman said that the agency could not comment further because of an ongoing investigation.

Read more:

Bowie State marching band suspended after hazing allegations

Major donors, other leaders condemn the board and call for U-Md. president to remain

D.C. charter schools argue in appeals court that city is breaking federal law and funding them unequally

Montessori, long a favorite for wealthy families, struggles to expand its reach

Deanna Paul covers national and breaking news for The Washington Post. Before joining The Post, she spent six years as a New York City prosecutor.

Post Recommends

We're glad you're enjoying The Washington Post.

Get access to this story, and every story, on the web and in our apps with our Basic Digital subscription.

Welcome to The Washington Post

Thank you for subscribing