SALEM (CBS) – A Marine is apologizing and looking for a second chance. Lt. Col. Michael Hunter, the former ROTC instructor at Salem High School, was fired after an argument with a student led to a confrontation with the assistant principal.
Hunter spent more than 20 years in the Marine Corps and has been at Salem High for the past three years. About two months ago he confronted a student for wearing a hood, telling him it was a dress code violation. Then he says he heard a profanity.
“He didn’t deny it,” Hunter said. “We had a few words.”
The real trouble started when Hunter reported the incident and got into a heated argument with the assistant principal.
“It got kind of loud and we ended up belly to belly. We didn’t touch each other. There was no threat. There was no violence there was no obscenity,” he explained.
He ended up losing his job and this week told his story to the school committee.
“I’m just a Marine. I’m a simple man. So I’m asking, what can I do to be reinstated?” he asked at the meeting.
His supporters even include the student who wore the hoodie, the young man’s neighbor read a letter from him.
“I believe we both could have handled it differently,” said Michelle O’Shea, reading the student’s letter. “The Colonel and I were developing a mentor-student relationship. Not many people earn my trust and respect but Colonel Michael Hunter has.”
Hunter got a standing ovation from supporters but the mayor who is also the committee chair says their hands are tied.
“I feel like we’re in a very awkward position as school committee members,” Mayor Kim Driscoll said. “In as much as we don’t have the power or the authority to override decisions of our administrative staff.”
Colonel Hunter said he has also retained a lawyer but says he hopes it doesn’t get to that point.
The Salem school system would not comment except to say Hunter is no longer an employee at the high school and the school remains committed to the ROTC program.