Maryland teacher under investigation after viral TikTok of students taking out his braids

There are mixed reactions from the community after a Maryland school teacher was placed under investigation over viral TikTok videos featuring interactions with his students that some criticized as inappropriate.

The teacher at the Maya Angelou French Immersion school in Hillcrest Heights was confirmed by the school district as Marquise White.

"The staff member in question has been reassigned out of the classroom pending the outcome of the investigation," an email from a Prince George’s County Public Schools spokesperson said.

White has over 770,000 followers on the social media app TikTok

Many of his videos involve teaching and have gained largely positive reactions online. However, White posted a video on May 5 after he said a livestream he posted of students taking out his braids the week prior garnered discourse in the comments. 

Some people suggested it was inappropriate.

Others came to the teacher’s defense.

"I would like to represent myself in this case, your honor," White said in the video, which has amassed more than 7 million views and about 21,000 comments.

White added for context, he had an appointment immediately after school that day and needed his hair taken out. He said he planned to do it the night before, but he was set to be interviewed that particular day at school for a promotional video. Students agreed to help him at the end of the day with ten minutes to spare before dismissal, he said.

Building an authentic relationship with students was paramount, he added,

"Students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Teaching is a work of heart," the caption on the video reads.

FOX 5 spoke with several people who live near Hillcrest Heights. Some people who have seen the video online said they believe critics were overreacting.

"I really don’t think it’s inappropriate, because like if it was a female [teacher], it would have been different. It would have been like ‘oh, that’s cute,’" one woman said. "I don’t think it was inappropriate. My opinion, don’t come for me."

Rodney Pitts of Temple Hills told FOX 5 he has a daughter and did not see a problem with the video.

"A lot of kids in this area need that type of male figure in their life. Sometimes, their father is not around. Sometimes, their mother is not around. The only place a kid can feel safe is in their school with that type of bond," Pitts said.  "From first glance, I personally think the teacher is doing an outstanding job of monitoring his kids and making them feel safe. That’s just my opinion."

Others offered a different perspective and told FOX 5 that they felt it was inappropriate for school.

"Something like that, I wouldn’t have a person doing that in my building. If I was the boss or principal, I wouldn’t have that. If you want to get your hair done, go home. Or go to a shop," Paul Walker said.  "I don’t have kids, but that’s wrong, period. If you’re a teacher, you don’t need to be doing that. You got kids, you’re supposed to teach them. Not teach them to take out hair and do hair in a school building."

Virginia Bailey also said she did not feel the interaction was appropriate between a teacher and a student.

"No teacher should be touching another, letting a student touch him. That’s inappropriate. If it were my daughter, I’d be up at the school," Bailey said. "A teacher shouldn’t be letting kids do his hair, touching him. That’s not appropriate. If he’s doing that, what else is he doing?"

FOX 5 reached out to White for comment. We have not heard back as of this writing.