Football: Internal memo details Muir scuffle

By Brian Charles, Staff Writer

PASADENA – A confidential school district memorandum calls into question the behavior of a football coach and a “belligerent” student who were involved in a scuffle that lead to the coach being placed on administrative leave.

The memo, written by Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent John Gundry, was obtained Wednesday by this newspaper. It not only purports to detail the actions of football coach Ken Howard, but outlines an apparent lack of oversight by Muir High School administrators.

Gundry’s memo also describes injuries suffered by a student in the Sept. 28 scuffle. The student’s name was not released, however Gundry notes the teen was taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital.

According to the confidential memo, Howard “grabbed (the student) by the neck and then took him into the hallway where he pushed him up against the lockers. The pictures (taken by PUSD employees) show a significant scratch on the student’s neck along with what appears to be a thumb print.”


During an exchange between Howard and the student, “someone called coach Howard (a racial epithet referring to blacks),” Gundry’s memo also notes.

In a previous interview with this newspaper, Howard said he was asked by an administrator to search backpacks on campus for a knife. The coach said the confrontation began when he asked the student to comply with the search.

Gundry declined to respond to direct questioning on the issue, but did release a statement Wednesday.

“The investigation, which is nearly complete, will describe what occurred and determine whether there was any violation of PUSD board policy,” Gundry said. “When the investigation is complete, I will issue a complete statement about the findings and conclusions.”

PUSD board member Scott Phelps applauded Gundry’s promise to release the finding from the investigation and asked the community to remain patient.

“I hope that the public reserves judgement until the board makes a decision,” Phelps said.

According to the Gundry’s memo, administrators and security officers at Muir are trained and authorized to search students. Howard is no longer employed as a Muir security guard, and was not authorized to conduct searches.

PUSD officials declined to comment on why Howard was on campus during the school day, or why he was involved in what appeared to be disciplinary actions taken on the behalf of the school’s administration.

Howard has been described as fixture on the Muir campus, and his involvement in classroom search on Sept. 28 was not his first time he was pressed into that type of service this year, said Joe Hopkins, Howard’s attorney.

“He had been placed in that position that day and had been placed in that position a number of times,” Hopkins said.

Sources close to the investigation said Howard is “looked up to” by administrators and faculty at Muir, and was often asked to come on campus to serve in a disciplinary capacity.

Hopkins said Howard is being used as a patsy and the blame may actually lie with higher authorities on the Muir campus.

It’s unclear who hurled the racial epithet toward Howard, but the coach, according to Gundry’s memo, “went after him while (the student) was still seated in his chair. One of the other adults said that (the student) waved his arm in an odd way at coach Howard, but it isn’t clear what that means or whether coach Howard believed he was being threatened.”

Gundry’s memo also details the events leading up to the confrontation, and claims that Howard’s actions were not authorized by Park.

The PUSD memo outlines a series of events that begins with Howard was looking for hats that matched one worn by student carrying a knife in his backpack.

The student involved in the conflict with Howard was not carrying a bag, wasn’t wearing a hat and didn’t match the description of the teen being sought Muir administrators, Gundry wrote.

Gundry assertion contradicts earlier claims made by Howard, who said the search was authorized.

Officials said no weapons were recovered on campus. Police declined to take action against Howard following the incident.

Hopkins said despite Gundry’s claims, his client was searching the backpack of the student involved in the spat.

“They had been called to go through one classroom and they were in this classroom and the kid wouldn’t allow his backpack to be searched,” Hopkins said.

Additionally, Hopkins said his client’s actions were in line with the coach’s years of training – and were in line with the best practices in the field.

“If you analyze how it was handled, it couldn’t have been handled better,” Hopkins said.

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  • thomas

    It is very odd to me that NO ONE other than Coach Howard’s attorney, has spoken up for him. I find that to be odd and pretty pathetic.

    I don’t know Coach Howard personally, but I believe that the coach should be commended and not suspended. The fact is that he was trying to keep the kids safe in what was described as an unsafe situation. He stuck his neck oit and put himself in harms way.

    If this kid had an attitude and didn’t want to comply then all he was doing was distracting the coach from protecting those kids. The kid didn’t respect authority and got almost everything he deserved. To complete what he deserves would mean a suspension, an apology to Coach Howard and if that is not forthcoming an expulsion.

    It seems to me this isn’t the first time PUSD or Muir has tried to get rid of Coach Howard. That is odd because up until recently, the only good news coming out of Muir has been the football team and the girls basketball team. This past season Coach Smalley had success with the boys basketball team…the sure hope the administration doesn’t go after Coach Johnson aand Coach Smalley

  • The “handling”, if you will, of our youth should always, always, be a last priority or absolutely necessary to prevent the youth from causing an injury to himself or others. Kids will say and do offensive things simply because they’re young and have a great deal of learning to do….we’re supposed to foster that growth. Sometimes that requires us to be more creative or patient, AND EVEN CAUTIOUS, in our approach when dealing with our youth – especially, in the most serious scenarios i.e. knife in a backpack.

    I’m more interested in knowing what the plan of action was, who drafted it, why it was necessary or warranted, and what, if any, the back-up plan was; or the expected/intended outcome. That individual(s), which may not be Coach Howard, is ultimately responsible for the outcome because they could and should have weighed these options and minimized the risks beforehand. All the other players, unfortunately in Coach Howard’s situation, are casualties….much like the youth involved.

    We just all reserve judgment until the facts are presented.

    Laurence Todd

  • Media

    I’ve had enough dealings with the media to know that we do not and will never know all the facts.

    Thomas, sincerely, the Star News may only be interviewing who they choose to or quoting who they can, speaking up for Howard could cost someone their job and these days, they are not easy to find.

    As a former public school teacher, I will say this coach is screwed. From what I can read, they set it up and then let him hang. Nothing more frustrating then a belligerent arrogant kid – and if you do anything close to what the coach did – YOU WILL PAY – NOT THE KID.

    That’s the lessons we have taught these kids, specifically the bulk of Pasadena High School students. Tragic and wrong.

  • views

    Dr.Park authorized the search and now hes trying to play innocent and let howard take the fall. Sad that he can’t be a man and say the actual story howard has given everything to that school and some administrator is going to ruin it all. WOW Muir faculty should be embarrassed and where is sheryl orange? shes a horrible admin. shes the face only she doesent do anything at all maybe its time for a new admin AGAIN from what i saw MR.Sipple was the only decent admin and hes no longer there. sad sad day if they get rid of howard consider muir done in everything most of those kids on those temas (football,track) were there because of howard losing howard = the beginning of the end of Muir

  • Let us all move on…


    I won’t talk about the “scuffle.” I wasn’t there and I’ve only heard rumors, so I have no opinion on the matter.

    But I will speak to the comment you make about the lack of Howard’s presence becoming the “beginning of the end” at Muir. You obviously don’t have a clue about football. Kids do not and will not go to Muir because of Howard, in fact it’s the opposite. Never in history have their been so many Pasadena kids playing at other schools than during Howard’s run. Why? Because he is a terrible coach. Don’t give me the education mumbo-jumbo, a good coach gets players, bottom line.

    My two nephews have played for Howard in the past and I’ve heard it all: missed practices, spirit pack inflation, degradation, no clue of Xs and Os, late to film sessions, missing film sessions, handing over HC responsibilities to assistants, poor communication, boggled handling of player recruitment, “N”-word proliferation, and-I-can-keep-going-if-you-want.

    I’m told he does a great job on campus during the day and does a great job of keeping kids in line. That’s great. But I’m talking football here, and being a role model after school and on the field. And I can say with 100% certainty that there has been no worse coach in the history of the SGV than Ken Howard.

    The sooner Muir finds a new coach, the better, and I for one can not wait for that to happen. So “Views,” your “view” on the matter is just as bad as Howard’s coaching.

    Is there anyone out there willing to refute what I’ve said here? Of course not, because everybody in Pasadena knows this to all be true.

  • Claire U

    Physical Education is integrated in the curriculum from elementary until tertiary level in order to develop the physical skills as well as the associated behaviors needed before, during and after the game. The education department aims to hone sportsmanship, self-discipline, patience, perseverance and other values among students. These values should also be possessed by the teachers or coaches who serve as the role model of the students.

    Sports have been a favored leisure activity across the history of societies. However, when it becomes our habit, we may end up needing payday loans to get into the these games.