Attorney for teacher charged with child abuse says incident ‘playful mistake'

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SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) 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 late last 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. in San Francisco. 

Gentle Blythe, spokeswoman for the San Francisco Unified School District, said the alleged incident happened on Dec. 19.

Tobar was initially placed on administrative leave and later resigned March 1, Blythe said.

According to Tobar's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Vilaska Nguyen, Tobar worked for the district for 21 years.

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 alleged incident, before deciding whether to dismiss or reduce the charge. The pretrial hearing this morning was set to be continued April 12.

Tobar turned himself in to police on Jan. 30 in connection with the allegations.

Following his arrest, Blythe alleged 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," former student Freddy Ochoa, 10, said. "He's never been mean to me."

Tobar's cousin Damaris Orozco said, "What they are accusing him of, that's not true. He's helped the community. He's not that kind of person."