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Woodland Hills principal placed on leave amid allegations he threatened student

| Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, 11:33 a.m.
Woodland Hills High School Principal Kevin Murray

The Woodland Hills High School principal was placed on administrative leave Wednesday after a recording surfaced of him allegedly threatening a student.

Woodland Hills Superintendent Alan Johnson said the decision to place Kevin Murray on leave is standard as fact-finding commences. The Churchill police department also has been notified, Johnson said.

Johnson said the 14-year-old male student's mother met with him before Thanksgiving break to play the audio in which a man, believed to be Murray, can be heard saying, "I'll punch you right in your face, dude," and "I'll knock your (expletive) teeth down your throat."

Threats recorded - (Explicit content)

The superintendent and child's mother were scheduled to meet again Tuesday, but she called and canceled, saying she had retained an attorney, Johnson said.

The teen's attorney, Todd Hollis of Pittsburgh, told the Tribune-Review the teen recorded Murray, apparently with a phone, because his mother did not initially believe her son's version of events.

"My client indicated to me that he was being bullied, threatened and harassed by the principal, Kevin Murray, on more than one occasion," Hollis said. "That can't be tolerated. Any parent sending their child to school expects their kid would be sent to a safe environment. The child felt like he had to tape it because his credibility was at issue."

Murray did not return an email message seeking comment and could not be reached. Murray has been told not to discuss the incident, Johnson said.

Of the recording, Johnson said, "It's obviously harsh language that I do not condone. The allegation is of a serious nature, and we have to investigate."

The recording is from an April incident, Johnson said.

The incident in question stemmed from a disciplinary meeting after the student called a teacher a derogatory name, Hollis said. He said the teen is categorized as a "special education student" and has an individualized educational plan.

"This is a child with limited ability, and regardless of whether he has specific limitations, he is still a child," Hollis said. "No child should be talked to in that manner."

In another portion of the recording, the man tells the teen he would prevail in court.

"When we go down to court, it's your word versus mine. And mine wins every time," a man can be heard saying.

Johnson said the child's mother took the recording to several police departments and then turned to him when police declined to take action.

Woodland Hills High School is located in Churchill. Churchill police Chief Allen Park did not return a message Wednesday.

Johnson said he plans an in-depth investigation that will examine how the student recorded the conversation.

Johnson said Murray is in his second year as principal and was an assistant principal at the high school before that.

"It would be unfair to be quick to judge the principal based on a single incident," he said. "Woodland Hills has done a tremendous job under his leadership — we have cut down significantly on suspensions. This is a good school with good teachers and good administrators. Hopefully, the public will give us a chance to work through and deal with it appropriately."

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or bschmitt@tribweb.com .

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