See the update at the end of this post about the Newport-Mesa Unified School District confirming Ron Martin is on paid leave because of a report of battery involving a student.
ORIGINAL POST, JUNE 11, 1:10 P.M.: A Corona del Mar High School drama teacher has been on paid leave since Wednesday because of a physical altercation with a student, school officials disclosed today.
The incident that sparked the employee discipline happened earlier this year, and the teacher was not identified by Laura Boss, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District spokeswoman.
But behind its fabled paywall, the Orange County Register identified the teacher as Ron Martin, who could not be reached by the Weekly for confirmation. Readers may recall Martin as the teacher at the center of controversy in late 2008 and early 2009 over the production of Rent on campus.
Jennifer Manzella, the Newport Beach Police Department spokeswoman, confirmed for City News Service that an investigation into an allegation of a “battery involving a teacher and a juvenile” is under way. Manzella also would not I.D. the teacher.
Corona del Mar High's theater department made national news with the controversy surrounding the production of the musical Rent, which includes themes related to AIDS and being gay and that was pushed for by Martin, a veteran instructor on campus.
Rent was first cancelled as the winter production by the principal and then allowed after some revisions–and plenty of howls of protest. Speaking of demonstrations, dentistry-challenged rednecks from the Kansas Christian ministry of the Rev. Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps showed up at Corona del Mar High opening night, as did counter-protesters.
Meanwhile, three varsity football players from the school posted a video on the school's Facebook page in in which they described how and where they would rape and fatally shoot a then 17-year-old girl who had posted an online message supporting Rent 's staging. Despite her mother being assured punishment would come to the boys, who also included homophobic remarks directed at another student, that never happened. They went on to receive athletic awards from the school, and one boy confronted the girl on campus days later.
The matter had apparently gone from the school to the Newport Beach Police Department, and then to the Orange County District Attorney's office and then back to school administrators who concluded the boys could not carry out their threats because they had no access to guns.
The female theater student and her parents, with an assist from the ACLU, sued the district “over a sexist and homophobic atmosphere that officials permitted to flourish at the school.” Martin stood alongside the girl's mother, Karyl Ketchum, to announce the suit, which the district eventually settled by agreeing to take several steps to teach faculty, staff and students about tolerance.
UPDATE, JUNE 12, 8:55 A.M.: The Newport-Mesa Unified School District released a statement identifying Corona del Mar High School drama teacher Ronald Knight Martin, 57, as the employee placed on paid leave because of a report of battery involving a student.
The district did not indicate which party was allegedly battered but did add the incident was not sexual in nature. Local police are investigating.
Martin was placed on administrative leave in October 2009 due to an unspecified “personnel matter,” the district said at the time, without indicating if it was related to the then-brewing Rent controversy.
The teacher went on to win a National Youth Theatre award for direction that year.