By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
PASADENA — Football players Monday returned to practice at John Muir High School without their head coach Ken Howard.
Highly-touted recruit Kevon Seymour and teammates prepared for weight-lifting before hitting the field for practice in preparation for Friday’s road game against Pacific League foe Burroughs of Burbank.
“We want him back,” said Seymour, a standout defensive back and wide receiver. “It was shocking when we found out that he would be gone (on leave). I would love to have him back. The whole team would love to have him back.”
On Friday the popular Howard was placed on administrative leave last week after an altercation Wednesday with a student who was reportedly armed with a knife. A scuffle between Howard and the student ensued after Howard attempted to search the student’s backpack.
Howard said he was told to search the backpack by an administrator at the school. His attorney Joe Hopkins identified the administrator as Dr. Charles Park.
“(Howard) was trying to protect other people from being harmed by some missing deadly weapons, i.e. knives,” Hopkins said. “He was trying to find where they were and the result is he ends up being suspended … (it) makes me think Howard is the scapegoat.”
Park did not return three phone calls seeking comment.
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Pasadena police were called to the school about the time of the scuffle, but did not find a knife, Pasadena police Lt. Phlunte Riddle said.
The case involving Howard has been reviewed and no criminal charges will be filed, Riddle said.
“(The district) will have their internal process reviewed and at that point they will determine if there were any policies and procedures violated by coach Howard,” Riddle said.
According to Hilda Ramirez, a spokeswoman for the Pasadena Unified School District, policy states “school officials may search students, their property, and/or district property under their control and may seize illegal, unsafe, or otherwise prohibited items.”
Furthermore, policy stipulates “searches of individual students shall be conducted in the presence of at least two district employees.”
Howard last week said he was accompanied by two security guards during the search and said Park apologized for authorizing the search.
Ramirez said administrators conduct searches “whenever there’s reasonable suspicion.”
The suspension of Howard came the same day fatal stabbing occurred at Southeast High in South Gate. Four people were stabbed, including the school’s dean. The victim was the estranged girlfriend of the suspect who previously made verbal threats.
Howard is in his seventh season as head coach with a 48-24 career record. Dave Mitchell, an assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach, will coach on an interim basis. Muir (2-2 overall, 0-1 in the Pacific League) is the No. 10 team in the tough Southeast Division.