Parents of Marshall Elementary School are going to bat for a teacher who was arrested on Tuesday for alleged child abuse. They say he was a pillar of the community and the charges against him have been blown out of proportion.
On Tuesday just before noon, Andres Tobar, a longtime kindergarten teacher at Marshall Elementary School turned himself into the San Francisco Police Department. He was booked in the county jail for felony child endangerment and abuse.
He has been released on bail and will be arraigned Feb. 5.
In December, Tobar was placed on administrative leave after he was allegedly seen cradling a child over a second-story balcony at the school. Earlier this month, SFPD opened an investigation into the incident, which ultimately led to Tuesday’s arrest.
But parents of Marshall Elementary say his departure has thrown the community into dismay, as Tobar was regarded as someone who went beyond his duties as a teacher to help students and their families.
On Tuesday morning, parents and former students gathered outside the school in protest.
“It came as a shock, because he was one of our best teachers at this school,” said Astrid Bonilla outside the school Wednesday afternoon. “A lot of parents feel the same.”
Bonilla, whose son attends the school, said that many parents in the Mission knew Tobar, largely because of how helpful he was outside the classroom. Bonilla recalled a time when she asked him to stay with her son at school because was running an hour late. He stayed, she said.
“Who else does that?” she said. “I haven’t met anyone at this school that would be willing to do that.”
Bonilla also said that she and other parents have not seen evidence of Tabor’s alleged crime and remain skeptical of the charges. “It seems unfair,” she said. “From that little action, his reputation has been ruined.”
Erin Perusse, whose son attends Marshall Elementary, feels the same. “This is a situation through hysteria has been blown out of proportion,” Perusse said. “Now someone’s real life and career is being ruined.”
“When you’re a teacher like him and you have your picture put on the news as a person who is endangering children, your career is over and your face in the community is changed,” she continued. “I take that really seriously, and we all should.”
Perusse believes the alleged incident may have looked bad, but in the end it was only “roughhousing.” “Someone saw and thought it looked bad,” she said.
Jose Orozco, whose two children attend the elementary school, said that Tobar was well-known and liked at the school, but that the situation is complicated. “If it had been my child, I don’t know know how I’d react,” he said.
Beth Clendenin has three kids who attend the school. “It was a bad judgment call,” Clendenin said of Tobar’s alleged actions. “But it was just meant in a playful and affectionate way.”
“It’s hard to believe the charges will be sustained,” she added. “Our greatest hope as parents is that he’ll come back to the school.”
Christine Pineda said her daughter joined Tobar’s class in October. “I didn’t think he was going to get my daughter up to speed and he did. He got my daughter up to speed within a month of his arrival.”
Pineda explained that her husband is not with her and her daughter because of immigration issues, and that Tobar provided extra support for both of them in a time of family transition.
“It was very vital to find someone … to be an extra support,” she said. “He helped make that transition copable.”
Pineda said she began helping in Tobar’s class after her daughter joined. “He always gives advice to kids — good advice to kids,” she said. “He’s the kind of person who’s always making sure the kids are well.”
She added that watching him teach has had a profound effect on her. “He inspired me to become a teacher,” she said. “And it’s very disheartening to be someone who’s about to start in this role and to have situations like this happening — where you feel like, ‘Hey, do I want to get into this?’”
Pineda said that the second floor is not the best place play around and lift up a child. But “I don’t believe the allegations that he pulled a Michael Jackson,” she said, referring to an incident when the pop star dangled one of his children over a balcony.
“Everyone’s sharing the same sentiment that we want him back,” she said. “Not only as a parent myself, but also a member of the community which is Marshall Elementary. We want him back.”