SARASOTA, Fla. -- A Sarasota Military Academy teacher is speaking out after cell phone video surfaces showing him yelling and pushing a student. Also speaking out is a large group of SMA students, saying they want their math teacher back.
Hundreds of passionate students have gone to great measures over the past 3 days to rally for their teacher, Captain Jeff Daughtry -- an Army vet, community service worker, and teacher at SMA for 3 years.
It all started with a Facebook page; in less than a week, the members have grown to over 800 and counting. Now t-shirts, car bumper stickers, and rubber bracelets have been ordered. Students are driving around with “Team Daughtry” and “Long live the Daughtry times” written on their cars.
"It's overwhelming, but it speaks to the character of this community. It reiterates my belief that these are great people," says Daughtry.
It all started with a cell phone video of Daughtry in which you can hear him yell and push a student into a chair. School officials fired Daughtry from his position on April 4th, three days after school administrators became aware of the video.
"I just wish there would have been more commentary. There would have been more questions. I wish I had more of an opportunity."
A witness in the classroom says the student being yelled at is known for being disruptive often -- this time cussing during class. "The student was being disruptive obviously, and it pushed Capt. Daughtry over the limit," says Jonathan Gow.
Students say Daughtry deserves a second chance, and that he did not hurt the student -- nor would he ever. “Capt. Daughtry was my favorite teacher; the nicest person I've ever met, the most emotional person I've ever met at what he does," says Alexander Holmes.
Daughtry shares his feelings about his conduct in the video. "It was a 2 minute loss of instruction; it was a teachable moment, not only for he, but for myself as well...I would never hurt anybody."
Earlier this month, the Sarasota Observer wrote a teacher spotlight piece on Daughtry's service work with veterans, alongside his students. "I was a member of the Wounded Warrior Project, and he would go take students to hospitals,” says Holmes.
ABC 7 spoke with the head of school, who declined to comment on camera but tells us they made the decision to terminate Daughtry based on the district's professional code of conduct. She emphasizes her high respect for Daughtry, praising him as an outstanding educator.