ShareThis Page
Allegheny

Woodland Hills principal to be reinstated

Ben Schmitt
| Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, 1:09 p.m.
Kevin Murray, as seen Dec. 6, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Kevin Murray, as seen Dec. 6, 2016.

Woodland Hills High School Principal Kevin Murray, on leave since a controversial recording surfaced of a verbal tirade involving a special-education student, will return to school, the district superintendent told the Tribune-Review on Thursday.

Murray has been disciplined and will return at an undisclosed date, Superintendent Alan Johnson said.

“I'm still deeply disappointed in the principal, and he knows that,” Johnson said. “And he is disappointed in himself. He will be returning, and we believe this was an anomaly. This was not representative of who he is and things he has done at Woodland Hills.”

Earlier this week, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s office revealed that its investigation into Murray was complete and no charges would be filed.

In a letter to Johnson, Zappala said the April 8 secret recording of Murray taken by the 14-year-old student in question could not be used in criminal proceedings. However, he described Murray's actions as “inappropriate and arguably threatening.”

Johnson said he took Zappala's words to heart.

“The District Attorney's office did a very thorough job, and we thank them for that,” Johnson said.

It's illegal in Pennsylvania to record someone without permission unless there is not an expectation of privacy.

In the recordings, which were captured in April and released in late November, Murray can be heard telling the student, “I'll punch you right in your face, dude,” and “I'll knock your (expletive) teeth down your throat.”

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

“When we go down to court, it's your word versus mine,” Murray said in the recording. “And mine wins every time.”

The incident in question stemmed from a disciplinary meeting after the student called an administrator a derogatory name, according to the teen's attorney, Todd Hollis.

The teen captured the recording on his cellular phone, Hollis said.

Murray's attorney, Phillip DiLucente, said a return date has not been scheduled.

“Whatever the administration's recommendations offer him, he is ready, willing and capable of completing whatever they would suggest — whether it's sensitivity training or anything else,” DiLucente said. “We are pleased and relieved that the administration is permitting Principal Murray to work at the high school so he can continue on in trying to help children and try to bring out the best in each and every one of them.”

Hollis said he is “very disappointed” in Johnson's decision.

Hollis filed a petition in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court asking a judge to review Zappala's decision not to prosecute.

Hollis has maintained the recording was made in a school hallway and was not private. After the recording went public, Hollis filed a private complaint with Zappala's office on Nov. 30 that Hollis said was not accepted.

In the petition for review, Hollis contended that “the District Attorney's Office has colluded with the school district to (the student's) exclusion by ignoring obvious and available facts and details that support a conviction for Mr. Murray for terroristic threats, harassment, disorderly conduct and other applicable charges.”

Hollis wrote in his petition that Zappala “has charged numerous other groups, students and non-public figures for similar conduct.”

Hollis wrote that the incident stems from a disagreement with a school administrator in which the student was overheard saying, “She's acting like a bitch.”

A hearing on Hollis' petition for review is scheduled for Feb. 9 in front of Common Pleas President Judge Jeffrey Manning.

DiLucente said he will attend the hearing.

“I believe it's separation of power issue that I am sure the president judge will rule upon,” he said.

The district put Murray, who is also an assistant football coach, on administrative leave Nov. 30.

Johnson said it was his decision to reinstate Murray and the school board has been made aware of the decision. He said he would not disclose the disciplinary procedure, calling the matter a personnel issue.

“He was disciplined,” Johnson said. “I can guarantee you that he is remorseful, and he may be speaking about that.”

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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me