Marston Riley pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of corporal injury to a child during his arraignment.
MORE: Maywood Academy High School teacher arrested, seen punching student during class
The incident captured on video by another student inside Maywood Academy High School last November.
Witnesses said the 14-year-old provoked the teacher by using a racial epithet.
Anna Corona was seated in class close enough to the fight to almost catch a stray blow. She, like many students, said things got out of hand after Riley kicked the student out of class for not having his music uniform. She claims the student left and came back making racial remarks and ready for a fight.
"He kept provoking Riley and started throwing his basketball at him," she said. "He was, like, calling him the 'N' word."
Civil-rights advocates are showing their support for Riley, calling for the dismissal of the misdemeanor charge so Riley can return to teaching. Najee Ali, a civil rights activist, even showed up to the courthouse on Friday to defend Riley's behavior.
"We feel Mr. Riley should be cleared of these charges. The charges should be dropped by D.A. Jackie Lacey," he said. "It's important that civil rights groups come and support Mr. Riley because we feel he was the victim of racial slurs and essentially hate speech by a student."
Riley is due back in court on April 5.
Meantime, a GoFundMe account set up in support of Riley has raised more than $189,600 as of Friday.