Kansas House member pleads not guilty in incident at school

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In this photo from Monday, May 3, 2021, Kansas state Rep. Mark Samsel, R-Wellsville, talks on his cellphone ahead of the House's daily session, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Samsel has been charged with three counts of misdemeanor battery over incidents involving two teenage students while he was substitute teaching. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

A Kansas House member who was arrested after videos began circulating online of him arguing with teenage students and pushing one of them while he was working as a substitute teacher entered a not guilty plea Wednesday to three counts of misdemeanor battery.

Republican state Rep. Mark Samsel, who is free on bond, also was given three weeks to undergo a mental health evaluation. The next hearing was set for July 12.

The charges against Samsel arose from a student reporting an April 28 incident involving Samsel in what videos showed to be a noisy classroom in his hometown of Wellsville, a town of about 1,700 people roughly 55 miles (89 kilometers) southwest of Kansas City. The brief videos, provided by a parent who said they were shot by students, also showed Samsel talking about suicide, God and sex.

One video showed Samsel grabbing a boy, pushing him against a wall and telling him, “I could put the wrath of God on you right now,” before the boy breaks free and runs away, yelling.

A criminal complaint accuses Samsel of having made physical contact with two 15- or 16-year-old students “in a rude, insulting or angry manner.” The third charge alleges that Samsel caused “bodily harm” to one of the students.

Samsel was banned for a year from Wellsville public school property and events. But there’s no indication yet that he might face disciplinary action from the House, which can censure or expel members over their behavior.