In 2018, when attorney Mark Samsel announced his run for a seat in the Kansas House as a Republican, he stated that his top priorities were funding “critical state services like public safety and mental health” as well as “increas[ing] education dollars to give Kansas students the tools to thrive in the 21st century economy.”
“The biggest thing for me is a culture change,” Samsel added in an interview. “Culture is No. 1 and showing people that we can be still be civil and do these things in a democratic fashion and get along with one another.”
Samsel ultimately won and was re-elected last year, but his time in office may be limited, after an incident at the end of April highlighted, in ways Samsel perhaps did not intend, the importance of the issues he wanted to work on as an elected official. On April 28, while substitute teaching at a high school in his district, Samsel began berating students in a bizarre rant involving masturbation, mental health, God, suicide, and lesbians. He then allegedly assaulted a student by kneeing him in the balls, much of which was caught on video taken by students.
Samsel was charged last week with three counts of misdemeanor battery, one of which alleges he caused one student “bodily harm.” On Tuesday, local law enforcement officials released a sheriff’s deputy’s affidavit that states that the boy Samsel allegedly assaulted showed the deputy some of his injuries, which included a rash and a scratch on his back, and told the deputy that, in the words of the affidavit, “his back and testicles were in pain” for fifteen minutes after the assault.
The affidavit also includes Samsel’s reasoning for assaulting the student. It it, he states that God told him to do it. More, via the Associated Press:
The sheriff’s deputy said in the document that he asked the lawmaker why he had put his hands on the boy, and Samsel pointed to the ceiling. When the deputy asked Samsel whether God told him to do so, Samsel answered, “Twice.”
“He stated he knew it was wrong and he shouldn’t do it, he stated he did not want to do it,” the affidavit said. “He stated, ‘The whole world is telling me not to do it, God said, Yes.’ Mark believes this was God’s plan.”
Samsel told the deputy that he didn’t “want to do any of the things I did right there” and suggested he might end up in a psychiatric hospital “because it has all the appearance of a psychotic episode or manic episode,” the affidavit said.
It’s unclear whether Samsel himself suggested he was experiencing a mental health crisis, or whether the sheriff’s deputy raised the possibility. But what is clear is that students were rightfully alarmed by Samsel’s behavior. More, via the Kansas City Star, on what happened that day at the end of April during Samsel’s stint as a substitute teacher:
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.”
According to the Associated Press, Samsel also asked another student, “Do you have mental problems?”
But it appears Samsel targeted one boy in particular, telling other students that he gave them “permission to kick him in the balls.” Samsel then “allegedly kneed him in the crotch.” Again, via the Kansas City Star:
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?”
According to the Kansas City Star, Samsel later claimed in a Snapchat post that his bullying of students in the class and his assault of a student was “all planned” with the students and that it was also “exactly what God 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 said in the post.
Contrary to what Samsel claimed, it appears none of this was planned with the students in that class. Last week’s charging complaint includes, according to the Associated Press, “40 potential witnesses, including at least 15 minors.”
Samsel has pled not guilty, and he has been ordered by a magistrate to go through a mental health evaluation.