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Government & Politics

Kansas Rep. Mark Samsel arrested for battery after physical altercation with student

 
 

Kansas state Rep. Mark Samsel was arrested on charges of alleged misdemeanor battery on Thursday after getting into a physical altercation with a student while substitute teaching in Wellsville.

Samsel, 36, was booked into the Franklin County Adult Detention Center after 3:30 p.m. Thursday. He has since been released on $1,000 bond, Sheriff Jeff Richards said. He has not been formally charged.

Superintendent Ryan Bradbury said that Samsel will no longer be allowed to work for the district.

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On Wednesday, Samsel, R-Wellsville, was substitute teaching at the Wellsville school district’s secondary school. Throughout the day, high school students began recording videos of the lawmaker talking about suicide, sex, masturbation, God and the Bible.

In one video shared with The Star, Samsel tells students about “a sophomore who’s tried killing himself three times,” adding that it was because “he has two parents and they’re both females.”

“He’s a foster kid. His alternatives in life were having no parents or foster care parents who are gay,” Samsel tells students. “How do you think I’m going to feel if he commits suicide? Awful.”

In another video, Samsel is recorded telling students, “make babies. Who likes making babies? That feels good, doesn’t it? Procreate ... You haven’t masturbated? Don’t answer that question. ... God already knows.”

Videos shared with The Star — by parents of students in the class — show Samsel focusing most of his attention on one male student. Both Samsel and the student paced around the classroom, talking back and forth. Samsel is shown following the student around and grabbing him. In one video, he puts his arms around the student and says that he was being hard on him.

At one point, Samsel tells the student, “You’re about ready to anger me and get the wrath of God. Do you believe me when I tell you that God has been speaking to me?” He then pushes him, and the student runs to the other side of the classroom.

“You should run and scream.”

In another video, he tells students, “Class, you have permission to kick him in the balls.”

Parents told The Star that Samsel “put hands on the student” and allegedly kneed him in the crotch. In a video apparently taken immediately after the incident, the student is shown on the ground. Samsel is standing over him and says, “did it hurt?”

He then asks him why he is about to start crying, pats him on the shoulder and apologizes, and then says he can “go to the nurse, she can check it for you.”

Samsel addresses another student and says, “do you want to check his nuts for him, please?”

The videos angered dozens of parents, who felt that their children were put in danger. Samsel works with students in several capacities, including as a referee and through church groups, parents said.

“I’m a concerned parent who doesn’t want this swept under the rug,” said father Joshua Zeck. “He’s around kids all the time. He’s a state representative. He’s in a position of power.”

Zeck said that he felt Samsel was “bullying” the student.

In a message to families, Bradbury said that the situation is being investigated.

Student safety has and always will be our first priority,” he said.

Samsel is the second Kansas lawmaker to be arrested this year. Former Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop, a Wichita Republican, was charged with felony eluding and fleeing from police and also faces misdemeanor charges of drunk and reckless driving after allegedly driving the wrong way on Topeka highways on March 16. He was forced to step down from his leadership post.

On Twitter, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas posted: “What the hell is going on with the #KSLEG this session?” He added that Samsel “shouldn’t just be terminated from substituting. He should be blocked from being around all kids.”

The district reported the incident, and an investigation was conducted by the Wellsville Police Department and Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. After the investigation, Samsel was arrested for misdemeanor battery, according to a news release.

In a Snapchat post shared with The Star, Samsel wrote that “it was all planned.”

“Every little bit of it. That’s right. The kids and I planned ALL this to SEND A MESSAGE about art, mental health, teenage suicide, how we treat our educators and one another. To who? Parents. And grandparents. And all of Wellsville,” he posted.

He wrote that he gave one particular student “hope.”

“I went to jail for battery. Does that really make me a criminal? Time will tell.”

He said that the incident happened during fifth period, and that the classes before that hour went as planned, and he shared the same lesson in each one. He said what happened was “exactly what God planned. The kids were in on it. Not all of them. But most.”

Parents told The Star that their children were upset by what took place that day.

“He’s a leader. He’s in the statehouse. He’s somebody in a position of power. And he did not do right by those kids,” Zeck said. “A lot of kids were affected by that.”

Jessica Roberts, a mother with two children who attend the school, said that she is now more concerned about Samsel’s involvement in youth sports and activities.

“I think he shouldn’t be around children,” she said.

In another video, Samsel is shown telling the student about “distractions from the devil,” and then grabs him from behind and lifts him off his feet.

In a different clip, he tells the student to go to the office.

“You were not following — not my rules — God’s rules right now,” he tells the student. “You better take a Bible.”

“Keep denying God, keep denying God, see how it’s going to turn out,” he told the student.

He is also shown in a video instructing some students to go outside, hold hands and run around the track, seemingly as punishment.

“Do you think we want to do this? No, we had a lesson to do. Is it kind of funny? Yeah. Are they ever going to learn? God only knows,” he says while watching the two students run outside.

Videos show Samsel’s classroom in chaos as he talks about the devil, God and how the Bible was edited.

“Are you doing the Lord’s work as you’re listening to the devil’s music?” he asks a student.

And he continually references suicide, and tells the class, “I’m not going to lose one more of my kids to suicide. Are we clear?”

House Speaker Ron Ryckman told The Star that “we’re not yet aware of the details and in the process of gathering as much information as we can.”

Samsel, who is an attorney, is in his second term in the House, where he’s occasionally courted controversy. In February, he was one of just 13 lawmakers to vote against a bill that would have ended an exemption for spouses from the state’s sexual battery law.

Ahead of the vote, he gave a speech in which he appeared to express concerns about criminalizing sexual relations between spouses.

“To me, it gets to what does the sanctity of marriage mean?” Samsel was quoted as saying, according to the Kansas Reflector. “And I’m single, so I’m not the best person to speak to this. But when you do get married, what does that mean? And what implied consent are you giving?”

More recently, Samsel raised the possibility of impeaching Suellentrop, but the state constitution doesn’t allow the impeachment of legislators.

“If we’re going to be in a leadership position, who’s most important that’s watching us? To me, it’s the kids,” Samsel told The Star recently when discussing the Suellentrop case.

“And when they look across our country right now and see that you can do things under bathroom stalls or whatever else, make up an excuse, deny immediately and then it turns out, yeah, you were kind of guilty — the process happens way too many times and it’s not been done the right way.”

This story was originally published April 30, 2021 2:15 PM.

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