RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CALIF. -- A bullying incident at a local high school caught on video has captured national attention.
On Wednesday, Jan. 8, Etiwanda High School freshman Kobe Nelson and a classmate had a violent confrontation between classes. School officials intervened and, after interviewing students who had witnessed the incident, Nelson and his classmate were both suspended.
"After school, about 3:30 in the afternoon, I received a phone call from the principal at Kobe's school," Nelson's father, Tommy Purvis, said. "She made it sound like Kobe had been fighting back. ... I told her, if Kobe's been in a fight, and he had been fighting back, I told them to go ahead and suspend him, and do what they had to do."
Upon his return home, Kobe, 14, protested his innocence:
"'Look Dad, I didn't do anything wrong: These kids were harassing me,'" Purvis said.
And video shot by a classmate with a cell phone surfaced, which corroborated Kobe's version of events.
This wasn't the first time Kobe and the other boy had clashed, Purvis said.
"In seventh grade, I saw this kid pick up an orange traffic cone and hit my son in the (crotch) with it," he said. "Apparently what happened is he saw his ex-girlfriend (post on Twitter) that she was hanging out with Kobe on winter break."
At first, though, the video -- which shows Kobe repeatedly attempting to walk away from the fight as he's pushed and finally pounced upon -- didn't make a difference, Purvis said.
"I go to see the administration on Friday. I have the video at this point," he said. "I went to show (the principal) the video and she shakes her head 'no' and raises her hand in the air, and says 'I don't need to see that; I know what happened.'"
So Purvis reached out to a friend of his, who runs the photojournalism blog Photography Is Not a Crime. Tuesday after the incident at Etiwanda High, the blog posted the video and a story, and things started happening in a hurry.
"Once that story broke, the principal and the district got hit with phone calls and emails," Purvis said. "I get a call at 8:05 in the morning on Tuesday from the deputy superintendent."
The video shed new light on the incident a week before, according to Chaffey Joint Union High School District Superintendent Mat Holton.
"This bullying incident occurred, it was fairly quick," Holton said Friday. "By the time (school officials) got there, it was over. They talked with both students that were involved. There were conflicting stories. ... They also talked with some other student witnesses and received some information that the threats were mutual -- there were threats coming from both sides prior to the incident."
Based on that, both Kobe and the other boy were disciplined -- Kobe was suspended for several days, according to his father, although privacy rules prevent Holton from specifying what happened with the other boy in the video.
"Days later, this video appears and the school is able to look at the video and able to see there is clearly an aggressor and clearly a victim," Holton said. "At the beginning of this week, they rescinded (Kobe's) initial discipline."
And other students, shown instigating the fight on the video, "have also been identified and disciplined as well," he said.
Kobe's story also exploded on local television and on social media, leading to former NFL offensive tackle Kyle Turley reaching out to the freshman football player via Twitter:
"b strong Lil bro that #bully & the #badcop will b ask'n 4 ur autograph 1 day, believe me!" Turley tweeted.
Although the suspension was reversed, Purvis is keeping his son out of school as he objects to how a San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy -- whom Purvis identifies as Luis Ortiz -- handled the incident, including, according to a second video (below) and post at Photography Is Not a Crime, mocking Kobe after he was suspended.
Purvis wants the deputy to be transferred to other duty, rather than being assigned to providing security at the district's high schools.
"I am not going to meet with anyone from the school or the school district until Deputy Ortiz is removed from all these campuses," he said. "I do not feel safe with him at these schools."
Purvis said he'll home school his son if necessary.
"Why should my son have to go to another school?" he said. "I bought my house here because I was under the impression it was a sound investment in a great school district."
The deputy's duty assignment is not up to the district, according to Holton.
"The officer's not my employee. The officer works for (the Rancho Cucamonga station of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department)," he said. "We have a partnership with them. I don't evaluate them, I don't assign them."
Based on the second video, the Rancho Cucamonga station is looking into the incident and how the deputy responded, according to department spokeswoman Cindy Bachmann.
"The Rancho station, they are aware of the incident and there is an administrative investigation that is ongoing," she said.
Purvis said there's been one bright spot in this entire affair:
"The last thing I wanted to do was put a video on YouTube of my son being bullied," he said. But, "the way my son responded ... I've never been more proud of him."