Now the controversial takedown has put his job on the line.
The student's mother continues to call for charges, but the teacher's attorney says the student is the one who should be facing charges.
Cell phone video caught the fight between the teacher and 8th-grade student at Bernard Black Elementary School in Phoenix.
The student admits he called the teacher a racial slur before the teacher grabbed the student and tossed him to the ground.
But it didn't end there, the student got up, continued to fight, and then the teacher slammed the student to the ground a second time.
"It told you need to quit it, quit it, I already told you," said the teacher in the video.
The student's mother is outraged and calls for police to arrest the teacher.
"I want to press charges; I want him arrested," said the mother.
But the teacher's attorney says the video shows only half the story, and she says her client Brent Russel is the victim.
"He's the victim because under Arizona law it is a class 5 felony to assault a teacher in their classroom," said attorney Marci Kratter.
Kratter said the student was out of control before the video started. She says her client has a background in behavioral health and used a tackle move to subdue the student.
"This was completely reasonable behavior, I think we can start talking about it going too far when there is an injury to the child, or if there is a gratuitous kick or punch when the kid is down, but you don't see that," said Kratter.
Phoenix Police confirm the case is being investigated by the bias crime unit, the team that handles hate crimes.
"I believe once the investigation is done, the Phoenix Police Department will determine the teacher was in the right, and he had every right to protect himself to an assault in the classroom," she said.
The teacher is currently on leave. The Roosevelt School District says they are cooperating with police on their investigation.