It’s the viral video you saw first on FOX 5. A Prince George’s County substitute teacher using a belt to break up a fight in his classroom. For the first time, we are getting an account of what happened from the substitute teacher in the incident at Gwynn Park Middle School.
The teacher’s daughter, Annette, told FOX 5 that her father, Sgt. Albert W. Cooks, was trying to break up a fight — a bad one — and the kids were not listening when he was yelling for them to stop.
That is when he took off his belt and hit a desk and the floor to get them to stop. He never hit a student, according to his daughter.
The video of the incident was shot by a student last Friday inside a sixth grade classroom.
Prince George’s County Public Schools have banned Cooks from the classroom and he is being investigated by authorities.
Cooks’ daughter told us her father is a Vietnam veteran. He released a statement to FOX 5 through his daughter saying:
“God is on my side. Pray for me and our kids that they improve in their thirst for education. We have a major problem in our society with kids coming to school for anything but to get an education, which will enhance their future. Talk is cheap, and the parents of today need to instill some old fashion values that our kids can take with them into their future and become contributing citizens.”
Cooks is getting a lot of support on social media and even from parents.
“My children said that [the teacher] was very personable,” said Cherrail Curry. “He was Vietnam veteran. He got drafted, so he evidently talked to them and shared with them [his experience]. He was, as one of my sons put it, a very gentle giant.”
“I didn’t see it as he was trying to hurt kids,” said Anthony Pelt. “Maybe just fed up a little bit and his way of trying to say you guys need some discipline. I didn’t see him as trying to abuse the kids or hurt the kids.”
In another statement, Sgt. Cooks responded to the praise saying, “I am nobody’s hero. I just want to make sure all students, especially black students, go as far as they can in school so that they can get scholarships and grants in college because they are available but only for the few who have the grades and are qualified.”
Cooks’ daughter lives in North Carolina. She said her father often used his belt to discipline her when she was a kid. He didn’t hit her with it, but a snap of the belt was all it took.
She said her father wasn’t actually hitting the children in classroom, but it was just his way of getting their attention and stop a fight.
His daughter also told us Cooks was a vice principal for more than 20 years at nearly a half dozen schools, including Gwynn Park Middle School.
According to Maryland law, corporal punishment is illegal, but a teacher can take reasonable action, including a degree of force to stop a fight.