San Francisco teachers union official on leave over hitting claims

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KTVU) - A San Francisco teachers union official has been placed on leave after a hidden camera appears to reveal him bragging about hitting students and getting away with it.

The video was released by Project Veritas, a non-profit conservative watchdog group famous for its questionable journalistic tactics and undercover video stings targeting labor unions, ACORN and National Public Radio. The video was shot on two separate occasions in late 2015 by two undercover Project Veritas journalists. Former James Lick Middle School teacher and current teachers' union treasurer Antonio Mankini is seen on tape talking to one journalist, posing as a teacher who had hit a student and to another reporter posing as a friend of a teacher who hit a student.

"I can see grabbing a kid; I can see throwing a kid up against a locker. Not that I've ever done that, okay once, maybe twice," Mankini stated. Mankini appears to describe how he made an assault on a student look like an innocent mistake. "I clotheslined a kid in a class one time, you know, and, of course, I was pretending, I was pointing at the kids and the kids saw... the kid went down... And that one still bothered me. That one, yeah, because I crossed the line. I know, I mean, I made it look like an accident."

Mankini goes on to advise the person recording the video, whom he thinks is a teacher, that "elbows are awesome weapons, too" which are "harder than a fist." He explains the threats that he made to kids when he was in the classroom. "But if there were no witnesses, then you have that deniability and that's something that could be used. No I didn't do it. There’s no scars, marks, tattoos or bruises or anything. There’s no evidence."

Mankini further confirmed that other teachers have hit students before and didn't face the proper repercussions. "I mean, teachers have smacked kids before. And... sometimes they're still working."

"Were there any witnesses? Just keep it that way. seriously. If there weren't any witnesses, it's your word against the kids. kids f**king lie. Seriously."

Mankini doesn't seem to know that he's being taped, which is illegal in the state of California, where both parties must consent.

We also don't know how much the Veritas tape has been edited or altered.

United Educators of San Francisco released a statement: "Project Veritas [is] known for breaking laws, lying, and wrongdoing in pursuit of their political agenda. Nevertheless, the video clips... are troubling and we are committed to a swift, full, and fair investigation."

The SF Unified School District has launched a full investigation and calls Mankini's comments "very disturbing." Mankini is currently on leave from his teaching job at James Lick Middle School to serve as a union representative and is currently paid by the union.

A school district spokesperson said, “We have grave concerns about the behavior Mr. Mankini references and encourage any former students, staff or family members who may have experienced mistreatment from Mr. Mankini to report their concerns immediately."