"He is here for us," said Jorge Hernandez, 20, one of the graduates who is attending summer school and plans to enroll at Santa Monica College next month. "He is doing all this because he wants us to succeed."
Those who are close to Battey believe his adversaries are waging a smear campaign to get rid of the teacher, whom they compare to a biblical shepherd persecuted for looking after wayward sheep.
Battey and his allies are focusing their animus on three people: Newman, the principal; former teacher Judy Atlas; and a private investigator named John Nazarian, who serves as vice president of a fund-raising foundation for the academy.
Battey has gone so far as to suggest that one or more of his detractors, in order to discredit him, may have taken the diplomas out of a file cabinet in his office and distributed them to students.
"They're trying to close the school," Battey said. "This program will not continue if I'm not around, pure and simple. These kids will be put out on the streets."
Newman, Atlas and Nazarian all scoffed at the suggestion of a diploma theft and professed their support for keeping the school open. "I would move mountains to keep it going," Newman said.
Still, Nazarian has openly criticized Battey's leadership.
"I'm so angry with this guy," said Nazarian, who looks after one of the students who recently graduated. "I thought teachers and kids, what could there be but good things?"
Some students are angry as well, accusing Battey of betraying their trust.
"He asked for my diploma back, but I didn't give it back," said Eli Orellana, 19. "If I gave it back, I knew I would never see it again."