GILBERT, Ariz. -- Students at Gilbert High School walked out of class Friday in support of a teacher and former football coach accused of slapping a kid in his class.
“I wish he was here but he can't be,” said Gilbert High School Principal Christopher Stroud, trying to reason with 150 students refusing to go to class.
“It started on Twitter, it was hash tag ditch4dunn,” said Junior Kayla Nelson. “It was to support Mr. Dunn. It was a sit in I guess.”
Nelson is one of Dan Dunn's math students and was one of the students who ditched third hour to show their support for the man now on paid administrative leave accused of slapping a student.
“I do not believe he would purposely hit a kid I really don't,” said Nelson.
Dunn was arrested April 17 for allegedly slapping a student.
“I mean sometimes teachers do that stuff because kids can get annoying,” said Dakota McCormick.
Dunn denies ever slapping the student. He remains on paid administrative leave while the prosecutor’s office reviews the case.
“That we think it's wrong, that he's a respectable man and none of us believe that he did that,” said Nelson when discussing the message behind their protest.
Dunn has coached football and taught students in the East Valley for decades.
In 1982, his 7-year-old daughter Laura was kidnapped, molested and murdered. Two years later his wife slipped into a coma during child birth and later died.
“It's really not fair, he deserves so much respect,” said junior Hannah Gerle.
And it's that respect that ultimately got students to go back to class.
“After 15 minutes or something the principal spoke and said some really nice words about Mr. Dunn,” said Nelson. “Then he said Mr. Dunn would want us to go back to class so in respect for Mr. Dunn we all went back to class.”