San Francisco Bay Area

Attorney for Teacher Charged with Alleged Child Abuse Says Incident was a “Playful Mistake”

Dozens of people wearing T-shirts that read “Justice 4 Mr. Tobar” packed a San Francisco courtroom this morning to support a former elementary school teacher accused of dangling a student from a second-floor balcony earlier this year. Andres Tobar, 47, has been charged with felony child endangerment/abuse for the alleged incident, which occurred at Marshall Elementary School at 1575 15th St. sometime in early January, according to police.

Tobar was initially placed on administrative leave, but he has since been let go from the San Francisco Unified School District after teaching with the district for 21 years, according to his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Vilaska Nguyen. Today, Nguyen sought to have the charge dismissed or reduced to misdemeanor child endangerment/abuse. Nguyen described the alleged incident as a “playful mistake” and “isolated incident that snowballed.” San Francisco Superior Court Judge Stephen Murphy said he would need more information, including watching a cellphone video of the incident, before deciding whether to dismiss or reduce the charge.

The pretrial hearing was set to be continued on April 12. Tobar turned himself into police on Jan. 30 in connection with the case. Following his arrest, SFUSD spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said in a statement, “Tobar was seen cradling a student and holding the student over the balcony on the second floor.” Outside of court this morning, dozens of Tobar’s supporters denounced the charges, saying he’s a well-liked teacher who has helped many young people in the Mission District. “He’s a good teacher. He’s never been mean to me,” former student Freddy Ochoa, 10, said. “What they are accusing him of, that’s not true,” said Tobar’s cousin Damaris Orozco. “He’s helped the community. He’s not that kind of person.” SFUSD officials were not immediately available for comment.

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