Kansas legislator arrested after wild rant, altercation at Wellsville school

GOP Rep. Samsel faces charge of misdemeanor battery

Rep. Mark Samsel, R-Wellsville, was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor battery following an incident while serving as a substitute teacher in the Wellsville district. (Pool photo by Evert Nelson/Topeka Capital-Journal)
Rep. Mark Samsel, R-Wellsville, was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor battery following an incident while serving as a substitute teacher in the Wellsville district. (Pool photo by Evert Nelson/Topeka Capital-Journal)

TOPEKA — Rep. Mark Samsel was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor battery for a physical altercation with a Wellsville student while engaging in bizarre classroom rants about the wrath of God, masturbation and sex, and teen suicide, officials said Friday.

The Wellsville Police Department and Franklin County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation after receiving a report of Samsel’s alleged conduct Wednesday from school district administrators. Samsel, a Republican from Wellsville and an attorney who works as a high school sports official in the region, was arrested Thursday and released on bond.

“Student safety has and always will be our first priority,” said Wellsville superintendent Ryan Bradbury. “At this time, we are prevented from commenting further on this situation.”

He said the district’s lack of public comment was not a reflection of a lack of transparency, but a responsible interpretation of privacy laws preventing detailed disclosures.

Samsel didn’t respond to a request for comment, but information about Samsel’s interactions with secondary school students was disclosed as students began sharing recordings of the substitute teacher.

Samsel, 36, spoke on one recording to students about masturbation and procreation. He warned he was growing angry and on the verge of unleashing the power of God on students, who chuckled and gasped as he lectured them.

“Do you believe me when I tell you that God has been speaking to me?” he said. “Do you? I could put the wrath of God on you right now because that’s what He tells me to do.”

Samsel was recorded telling students they had permission to kick a male student. In response, a student yelled: “Come on, let’s line up.” The battery charge apparently stemmed from Samsel grabbing a male student and hitting a student in the groin.

Samsel told students the Bible was a collection of stories edited by people distracted by the Devil.

In addition, the recordings reveal Samsel delved into the personal story of a student who attempted suicide because his parents were women.

“Listen. I said both of his parents are female. He’s a foster kid. His alternatives in life were having no parents or foster care parents who are gay,” Samsel said. “What’s my point? My point is the kid has tried to kill himself three times and he’s one of the best kids on the planet. How do you think I’m going to feel if he commits suicide?”

Samsel has represented since 2019 District 5 in the Kansas House, which covers an area extending into Franklin, Anderson, Linn and Miami counties. He’s a member of the House committees on education, judiciary, energy and financial institutions.

In February, Samsel delivered a speech on the House floor about the dangers of criminalizing “a routine act” between a husband and wife. His comments came during consideration of a bill that would remove a spousal shield to charges of sexual battery. Samsel voted against House Bill 2120, which would make it a crime for one spouse to touch the other with the intent to arouse sexual desires without consent. It passed the House 110-13.

“To me, it gets to what does the sanctity of marriage mean?” Samsel said. “And I’m single, so I’m not the best person to speak to this. But when you do get married, what does that mean? And what implied consent are you giving?”

“My concern,” he said, “is we are triggering ethical obligations for what would seemingly be a routine act between man and woman.”

Samsel voted against Senate Bill 55, which would ban transgender girls and women from participation on girls’ and women’s sports teams in Kansas schools and colleges. The measure was approved by the House and Senate, but vetoed by Gov. Laura Kelly. Samsel said he was concerned about retaliation against Kansas if the bill became law.

“I don’t like being bullied by anybody either. But there’s serious risk if this thing gets passed into law that we will lose the NCAA March Madness tournament in Wichita, Kansas City, other parts of the state,” Samsel said.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.