UPDATED: Lawmaker arrested for school incident

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(Updated with Samsel comments)

Franklin County authorities on Thursday arrested state Rep. Mark Samsel on a misdemeanor battery charge for an incident that occurred while he was working as a substitute teacher at Wellsville High School.

Franklin County Sheriff Jeff Richards confirmed that Samsel, 36, was booked at the county jail at 3:42 p.m. on Thursday and charged with battery. He was released on a $1,000 bond. He spent about an hour in jail.

Richards said he couldn’t divulge details about the battery charge.

The sheriff’s office said it made the arrest in response to an incident that occurred Wednesday afternoon and was reported by administrators at the Wellsville School District.

Wellsville school officials declined to provide more details of the incident, which occurred in an arts class.

The district posted a message online telling parents that it was aware of the incident that occurred on Thursday.

“The appropriate authorities were notified. The situation is being thoroughly investigated. Student safety has and always will be our first priority,” Superintendent Ryan Bradbury said in the statement. 

“At this time, we are prevented from commenting further on this situation. This is not due to a lack of transparency but due to privacy laws that prevent us from doing so.”

In an interview, Bradbury said he couldn’t disclose any more details than the statement that was released.

Video shared on social media showed Samsel at one point hugging a student in a classroom and at another point talking about pregnancy and masturbation.

He talked about suicide, the Bible and God with the students as well as the politics of the Senate president.

“Make babies. Who likes making babies? That feels good, doesn’t it? Procreate,” he told students at one point.

“You haven’t masturbated?” he asked. “Don’t answer that question.”

A student said he wouldn’t answer the question.

“Thank you. I told you not to,” Samsel said. “God already knows.”

In a different exchange, Samel tells a student that “you’re almight God is scary and you don’t listen to him either, do you?”

“God wants you to be glorious in his image because that’s how he created you,” Samsel tells a student

At another point, a video shows Samsel grabbing a male student, saying he would “put the wrath of God” on him.

Samsel later put his arm around the same student to let him know he was loved and cared about.

“I’ve done that a million times,” Samsel said.

Samsel said students raised the topic and he was trying to send a message that actions have consequences.

“They brought it up through art and mental health. It’s all tied together. You can’t cherry pick one of those things out of there,” he said.

“I never actually brought up any of these things on my own,” he said.

“Somebody would ask a question and then I injected using extreme humor and perhaps inappropriate, but that’s art, that’s play.”

He added, “Granted, I’m not a real teacher. I’m a substitute teacher doing the best of my ability, but I know those kids are going to remember that message and I pray to God that they make good decisions and better decisions like I need to, obviously.”

Samsel said there was never an intent to do anything confrontational, saying it was part of plan to show support for the students.

He called the class period a “set up” to confuse the “media and every other hater that’s out there.” He described it as “theater.”

“I plotted it with those kids because they needed my help and they needed their parents and grandparents to get a grip on reality,” he said.

He agreed that it looked bad.

“Was it outrageous and does it appear to the outside world that what I did should banish me and send me to jail?” he asked.

“Yep, it absolutely appears that way,” he said. “But God was present in the classroom yesterday and I could see it in multiple people.”

He said there was higher being at work that day.

“The man upstairs actually orchestrated and I was just doing what I was told,” he said.

“I did the physical labor, the Earthly labor,” he said

Samsel said there was no truth to allegations that he kicked a student in the crotch.

“I did a foot motion that made it look like I was going to kick him in the balls,” he said.

“I don’t even think I touched the kid with my foot,” he said, adding that it was part of a “show.”

The videos also revealed Samsel talking about a student with female parents who tried to kill himself three times. He called the student “one of the best kids on the planet.”

“He’s a foster kid,” Samsel told the classroom of giggling and talkative students.

“His alternatives in life were having no parents or foster care parents who are gay.

“How do you think I’m going to feel if he commits suicide? Awful.”

At one point, Samsel accused Senate President Ty Masterson of being the devil, largely because of his support of a bill banning transgender girls and women from participating in female sports.

“He is the devil disguised in a suit and a smile and Christians follow him because they  don’t realize he’s the devil,” Samsel said. “Is that funny?

“It is, excuse my language, fucking our state right now and it is causing kids to kill themselves and I have to attend their funerals knowing what’s going on,” Samsel said of the bill. “It’s not funny.”

Masterson issued a statement on Sunday calling Samsel’s comments the “deranged rantings of a troubled man.”

“It is obvious from the shocking videos he shouldn’t be in a classroom or around children,” he said.

Samsel made no apologies for the comments, saying Masterson “shoved (the bill)  down our throats.”

Asked if it was appropriate to use foul language in a classroom, Samsel said that type of profanity is already used by students.

“If we’re talking art and a visualization – I 100% mean this, Brad – take the state of Kansas visually on a map, bend it over and that’s how I feel about what Ty Masterson’s been doing to it,” Samsel said.

“Maybe that’s art and maybe it’s inappropriate, but I had probably blown a gasket by that point. That’s the type of stuff that is killing our young people.”

Samsel acknowledged that the statehouse has not been a happy place for him in recent months and had considered resigning.

“I hate that place,” he said. “That’s like the devil’s doing his bidding in the state Capitol building. It happens every single day.”

Samsel said he expected the students to video the classroom.

“There were signs in that classroom that they were going to take a video of the worst possible things that went on in that classroom,” Samsel said.

“If people actually knew the truth, they weren’t bad at all,” he said. “But people are going to come yelling and screaming and asking for my head and my job.

“I don’t care. I don’t care about my state representative job. I don’t care about my law practice. I don’t care about any of that.

“The one thing I fear is God, and I believes he’s present right now and that’s the only thing I care about. That’ not true. I care about his children and his kids.”