This social drama follows the struggles of a high school teacher who, after being stabbed, returns to work and finds himself frustrated by the school's unwillingness to take a hard disciplinary line.
Trevor Garfield (Samuel L. Jackson), is a truely dedicated Brooklyn high-school science teacher, who is constantly struggling to work within a system where the pursuit of education more often than not takes a back seat to the ongoing battle merely to stay alive.
Year after year, Garfield saw his once loved school transform into something not much short of a war zone. He watches as the pupils are split into camps -- the few eager to learn increasingly outnumbered by those who are just angry at the world that did not include them. Those students begin to answer their questions through violence and the trouble really starts.
Working in this environment, Trevor finds his commitment stretched beyond the limits of reason and the last straw arrives when he refuses to pass one of his volatile and sociopathic pupils - this student, eager to pass but not eager enough to weorkk for it retaliates by stabbing his teacher in the back, leaving him to die in the school hallway.
Now, one year later, his wounds have healed but left scars of the mental, physical and spiritual kind and leaving Trevor somewhat shaken. However he soon returns to his once much-loved career of teaching and takes a position in a Los Angeles school this time.
Soon he finds himself in the same world of amorality and violence he had hoped to leave behind in New York. To his new colleagues, Dave Childress (John Heard), a victim of teacher burn-out, and Ellen Henry (Kelly Rowan), a fresh and hopeful instructor, he is both a reluctant hero and an inspiring enigma.
To most of his new students, he is a cipher to be disregarded.
But Trevor's dedication, tainted with something darker, finds himself challenged by school administrators rendered impotent by their fear of possible litigation and confronted by a group of desperate students who would rather fight than learn.
And now, no one is quite sure just how far this transformed man will go.
This superb film explores the nature of heroism and the moral haziness in a world where only a small few are willing to take a stand against the people that surround their world.