VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Karl Whitley has spent three decades in the classroom, but now finds himself fighting for his job.
“I want to thank all the current and former students and parents that have come to my defense,” Whitley said.
Whitley was placed on leave last week from his teaching position at Kempsville Middle School.
A confrontation with a student in his eighth grade civics class was caught on camera. In the video, he pulls AirPods out of the student’s ears after telling the student to remove them several times.
“Now as we know, the video did not show the few minutes that preceded,” attorney Gary Byler added.
Byler is handling Whitley’s case free of charge.
“His life calling has been to educate the children of Virginia Beach and he’s looking forward to returning to that role as soon as he can,” Byler said.
Byler has compiled more than a thousand messages of support for the teacher. Whitley says he had no idea of the impact that he made.
A Change.org page also has more an 3,300 signatures supporting Whitley.
“It’s buoyed me in an honestly trying time, and I just want to thank everyone for going through all those efforts for me,” Whitley added.
School officials say they continue to investigate the incident. Byler is looking to speed up the process in hopes of getting Whitley back to work in the next two weeks.
“This is the man that is a once [in] a lifetime teacher that makes a difference,” Byler said. “That’s Mr. Whitley, and I can tell you on his behalf he’s not going anywhere.”
Byler didn’t want Whitley to talk about what happened in the classroom, though the attorney feels his client did nothing wrong. Whitley tells WAVY News that as painful it is to be away from the classroom, all the kind words have helped provide comfort.
“It means a lot, and it means my 29 years … has made a difference,” Whitley added.
Byler says if anyone wants to email any messages of support for Whitley send them to email@example.com.