By Brian Charles and Frank Girardot, Staff Writer
PASADENA – John Muir High School head football coach Ken Howard Friday was placed on administrative leave after a scuffle with a student.
The scuffle, which occurred Wednesday, happened after Howard and other school personnel searched the Northwest Pasadena high school campus for a student reportedly in possession of a weapon, Howard said.
“The kid was resisting,” Howard said. “I told him to sit in his seat and it got physical. I wrapped the kid up and escorted him from the classroom.”
During the struggle, the unidentified student was injured, according to Randy Ertll, a community activist. Ertll said the student was choked and slammed onto a desk.
The student received medical care, and was bruised on his back and there was blood on his neck, Ertll said.
Howard, a former school security guard, said in 17 years on the Muir campus he’s never had a similar altercation.
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Pasadena police responded, but did not make an arrest, according to officials in the Police Department’s records division.
“The police officers that responded said I did everything right,” Howard said.
Nonetheless, school officials questioned Howard’s role in searching for the student and requesting to search the student’s backpack for a weapon.
“I think there are enough questions about the behavior,” said Renatta Cooper, PUSD board president. “Quite frankly, he is not authorized to conduct a search.”
Howard said he accompanied by two security officers, and the search was authorized by an administrator at Muir who later apologized for authorizing the search.
Neither the security guards or the administrator have been disciplined, Cooper said.
“The bottom line is that I kept myself and other kids on campus safe,” Howard said. “I even kept (the student) safe. If he had been out in the community with that weapon he could have been seriously injured in some other way.”
Howard said he did not know if the student’s backpack was ever searched or if a weapon was recovered.
Howard will be paid during his administrative leave. Cooper said Howard’s job is “not a highly paid position.”
The coach said he hopes the issue can be resolved soon.
Muir’s Mustangs were 2-1 entering Friday night’s game with Arcadia. After Howard was notified of the suspension Friday afternoon, he was relegated to keeping his distance from the team.
“It’s a real good season for us,” Howard said. “It could be a setback, but I think we can overcome this.”
The incident was immediately condemned by at least one Pasadena community leader.
“This type of behavior is outrageous and illegal,” Randy Ertll, executive director of El Centro De Accion Social, said in a statement released Friday. “Coaches should not be harassing and beating students. This sets a terrible example.”
Ertll questioned why Howard conducted the search and said Muir needs to develop better methods for searching students.
“There needs to be better policies and procedures for conducting searches,” Ertll said. “There shouldn’t be random people doing searches, there should be authorized personnel doing searches.”
Dave Mitchell, Muir’s assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach, will serve as interim head football coach. He coached the Mustangs Friday.
Staff Writer Miguel Melendez contributed to this story.