After being cleared by a judge, 'Coach Joe' speaks out about Sebastian River High School altercation

Posted at 11:12 PM, Feb 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-08 00:08:27-05

It's the viral video that rocked an Indian River County school - a teacher and student getting into a fight right in the middle of a classroom.

The clip threatened to derail Joe Nathaniel's teaching career.

Now, nearly 15 months later, he has a feeling of vindication as a judge cleared him in the altercation.

“It was a great feeling knowing that the truth finally came out,” he says.

The student, Isaiah Speights, claimed Nathaniel escalated the situation after he made a smart remark to the teacher.

Nathaniel maintains Speights was the aggressor.

“It became distasteful, it became disrespectful, and I couldn't allow that to continue on,” he says.

Our cameras were there as the case went to court last October

A judge reviewed the video, talked to witnesses, and in a ruling just released, commended Nathaniel for standing tall against a "foul mouthed, defiant, and violently aggressive student.”

He added Coach Joe should be "given a pat on the back, not a pink slip."

“This was a waste of taxpayer money. It was a waste of taxpayer money. It was in my opinion a witch hunt,” Nathaniel says.

He says his case points to a larger overall issue.

“We need to be supported by our superiors, and that's not happening,” Nathaniel says. “We're not supported in the classroom when we have problematic kids.”

In a statement Tuesday night, the teachers union praised the ruling and echoed that sentiment, saying among students, “misbehavior and disrespect are given no consequences.”

We reached out to the district for comment on Nathaniel's case, but a spokesperson declined, saying staff is still in the process of sharing information with school board members.

Nathaniel tells NewsChannel 5 he doesn't second guess how he handled the situation, and this won't change his approach in the classroom.

As for if or when he will return - that's in the hands of the school board.

He does say despite everything, he would like to return to the classroom to teach.