A student who allegedly was threatened by a Mount Tahoma High School teacher has filed a $500,000 claim for damages against the Tacoma School District in connection with the confrontation, which was caught on video.
Cellphone video from the Oct. 13 incident appears to show history teacher Mike Andersen at one point telling the student: “You’re lucky that I got a job because I will put you down right there, six feet under.”
The 17-year-old student’s claim against the school district, which was filed last month, alleges the teacher had been reprimanded before for threatening students.
“The Tacoma School District breached its duty to supervise Mr. Andersen, even after concluding on numerous occasions that he had violated District policies,” according to the claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit. “The Tacoma School District has allowed Mr. Andersen to harass, intimidate, bully, and threaten kids with physical harm.”
Tacoma School District spokesman Dan Voelpel said Andersen is on unpaid leave, pending the conclusion of the district’s investigation of the incident. Voelpel said the district would wait until the end of the investigation to comment further.
The teenager, identified in the claim by the initials T.J., has changed schools.
The teenager’s lawyers, Sumeer Singla and Lawand Anderson, said personnel records they requested showed that Andersen had been accused of threatening students before.
According to those records, which they cited in the claim and provided to reporters, Andersen:
▪ Received a letter of reprimand after he allegedly threatened to knock out a student in 2009.
▪ Was told in 2014 not to use profane language in front of students after he allegedly accused a student in front of the class of turning him in for swearing and disclosed that student had a failing grade.
▪ Received another letter of reprimand in 2016 after he allegedly called a student an expletive or “skinhead,” told the student to “shut the (expletive) up” and called part of the school’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day assembly something to the effect of “B.S.”
▪ Received another letter of reprimand in 2017 after he allegedly told a student, “I don’t like you because you are half black,” and made another student cry when he shouted at her after she asked him not to yell.
The records also show he was accused of encouraging three students to fight in 1984 when he was a substitute teacher.
Andersen said he was joking in some of the instances, according to the records. In others, he said he was upset, including the incident in which he is accused of making the student cry. Andersen told school district officials he had asked the girl to put away her phone five times. He was going to apologize, he said, but she quickly left class.
His attorney declined to comment Friday.
Students at Mount Tahoma protested last year in support of Andersen after he was put on leave and started an online petition to bring him back, which got close to 400 signatures.