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Santa Monica High Coach Reinstated After Investigation

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By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

April 18, 2014 -- Science teacher and wrestling coach Mark Black, who was recently involved in a physical fight with a student, will return to work next week after an internal investigation by the District, officials said Friday.

Black, who was put on paid administrative leave on April 4 after video clips emerged showing him wrestling a student, will return to his duties at Santa Monica High on Monday when students return from a two week spring break.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District conducted an independent investigation of the incident between Black and a student who had allegedly been selling marijuana in his classroom.

School officials anticipate receiving the investigator's final report by the middle of next week.

“Based on what we have learned, it is appropriate to return Mr. Black from paid administrative leave, at this time,” said Superintendent Sandra Lyon.

“I want to make it very clear that Mark Black was not fired or suspended from his job, he was simply placed on leave with pay during the investigation,” added Lyon.

The District followed its standard practice of placing an employee involved in a physical altercation on paid administrative leave while the facts of the incident were investigated, according to district officials.

Since the altercation occurred on the Friday prior to Spring Break, Mr. Black has not missed any work days. (“Santa Monica High Teacher Placed on Leave after “Deeply Disturbing” Incident,” April 4, 2014)

District officials said they won’t publicly disclose the details of the investigation, per District policy.

Meanwhile, district officials said they are working closely with the Santa Monica Police Department as they investigate the charges against two students who were involved in the incident. (“Two Students Arrested after Fight with Santa Monica High School Teacher,” April 8, 2014) 

Blair Moore, an 18-year-old student, pleaded not guilty to multiple misdemeanor charges last week, including two counts of threatening a public school official and one count of possession of less than 28.5 grams of marijuana on school grounds, according to the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD).

He was also charged with one count of possession of a box cutter on school grounds and one count of “force or violence against a school employee in retaliation for an act performed in the course of his or her duties,” police officials said. (“Santa Monica High Student Pleads Not Guilty To All Charges,” April 9, 2014)

The SMPD have withheld the identity of the second student involved in the incident because he is a minor. The unidentified 16-year old was arrested on suspicion of battery against a school employee, according to police.

“SMPD has asked us not to comment on any details of the incident that afternoon so as not to jeopardize their own ongoing investigation,” said Lyon.

“The District is also legally precluded from discussing disciplinary action taken against students,” she said.

The SMMUSD Board Vice President Ralph Mechur said, “In no way was our action to place the teacher on paid leave a determination of wrongful conduct on his part.

“Mr. Black is a valued coach and educator and we owed him due process protections while the independent investigation was conducted,” he said. “We have honored that obligation.”

District officials have also called for two major policy review efforts, according to a statement sent to the press Friday.

“First, a committee of district and site leaders will review and make recommendations for training to clearly define and communicate the policies, procedures and protocols relating to noncompliant students to ensure that staff and students know what to do to prevent an altercation from occurring and what to do when an altercation is already underway,” the statement said.

“Second, Samohi principal Eva Mayoral will convene a select panel of employees, administrators, parents and students to discuss the issues and assertions that emerged as a result of this incident,” the statement added.

“Samohi is a great school with a rich, vibrant history and an amazing student body and staff.  However, this situation has created an opportunity for us to take a serious, reflective look at ourselves,” Mayoral said. 

“It is imperative that this committee addresses these issues thoughtfully, collaboratively, and quickly so that we can take some positive steps immediately and factor their suggestions into the next school year at Samohi,” she added. 

“We must engage in a constructive, productive dialogue that will move us forward as a united school community, ensure even greater campus safety, and assist in maintaining the positive, supportive school culture we so value at Samohi,” she said.

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