A Hartland High School teacher and coach who has been placed on leave as the result of an incident involving a student is receiving support from students, parents and colleagues.

Brian Morrison, affectionately known as “Coach Mo” or “Mo”, was placed on paid leave March 3rd after roughhousing with a student during gym class two days prior. During the incident Morrison reportedly put the student in a headlock, ripping his shirt in the process. Students who were present at the time say Morrison was just playing around. At the advice of their attorney, district officials have declined to comment on the incident. It is unknown at this time whether Morrison will be allowed to return to his teaching and coaching job.

At a Board of Education meeting Monday, students, athletes and teachers from the school, as well as parents and former students, packed the board room of the Hartland Educational Support Service Center. During the meeting’s call to the public session, numerous individuals stood and spoke on Morrison’s behalf, expressing their belief in his integrity and lasting positive impact on the students he’s come into contact with. Several individuals became emotional or cried when talking about what Morrison has done for them. At one point, a student asked those in the crowd who were there to support Morrison to stand. The majority did.

In attendance was the high school’s varsity baseball team, who forfeited their game against Northville Monday night to attend the Board of Education meeting in support of their coach. The team wore shirts that said, “Do it for Mo”. Senior and team member Zachary Schmidt says they decided to forfeit the game because they felt Coach Mo deserved their support. Schmidt says, “We really love our coach. He’s a part of our family…his character is excellent. I’ve known the man for four years. He’s been my mentor…he makes me laugh, he’s been my baseball coach, I love him on and off the field…he’s a great man, he’s honest, he’s true to his beliefs.”

There were also teachers that attended and spoke on Morrison’s behalf, including Ron Weston, the high school’s automotive technology teacher who has the highest seniority as a 40-year veteran teacher and has been Morrison’s colleague for 17 years. Weston says in that time, Morrison had 17 “unblemished” evaluations and that he has always admired his teaching style. Weston says Morrison knows what he did was wrong and spoke of his colleague’s ability to connect with students stating, “As a teacher I’ve often asked my students, ‘if you had a problem at school, is there someone you could go to for help?’ Brian Morrison is one of those adults. I also ask students, ‘what keeps you coming to high school every day?’ And it’s not always the classes. It’s the teachers, it’s the personality, it’s people like Brian Morrison.”

Weston says it’d be “excessive” if Morrison lost his teaching job, losing his coaching job would be “plenty of punishment” and losing his teaching certification would be a “career-ending death sentence”. While Board of Education President Thom Dummond did not speak to the incident or potential outcome, he did thank community members for attending the meeting, adding he knows there’s a lot of sensitivity involved.

Students on Friday took part in a walkout to show their opposition to Morrison being put on leave; leaving class and gathering on the baseball field. (DK)