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LOS ANGELES — A former substitute teacher at a juvenile probation camp was arrested Tuesday for investigation of supervising a series of fights between students in rival gangs, authorities said.

The five fights were overseen by Stephen Wesley, 43, who set rules and told students not to punch each other in the face to avoid obvious signs of injury, Los Angeles County sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

“Wesley not only allowed the fights to take place but also encouraged them by setting ground rules, including time limits,” Whitmore said. “He directed the minors where to fight in the room.”

Wesley was arrested at a home in the San Fernando Valley on six counts of felony child endangerment stemming from the Aug. 8, 2008 altercations, authorities said.

It was not immediately known if Wesley had hired an attorney. Before his arrest, he told the Los Angeles Times he knew nothing about any fights during classes.

Wesley was being held in lieu of $600,000 bail.

Cal Remington, the county’s interim chief probation officer, said authorities at Camp Karl Holton in San Fernando grew concerned after seeing students with bruising and other signs of fighting. Officials reviewed a videotape and saw there had been five fights in Wesley’s classroom during the day.

“It was something that never should have happened,” Remington said.

Wesley had been leading a discussion about gang issues when two students from rival gangs got into an argument, Whitmore said. The teacher allegedly encouraged them to settle their dispute physically.

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“His job was to create a safe environment,” Whitmore said. “What we believe is that he was doing the opposite.”

Wesley had worked for less than two years as a substitute teacher at the Los Angeles County Office of Education, spokeswoman Margo Minecki said. He resigned Sept. 29, 2008.


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