A Pittsburgh-area school voted this week to hire its controversial principal as the head coach of the football team.
The Woodland Hills School Board voted 5-4 Wednesday to hire Kevin Murray, the principal who had drawn criticism for an incident in which he allegedly threatened a 14-year-old special education student and for leading a school at which a Churchill police officer knocked out a student’s tooth earlier this month.
After the board’s vote, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, more than a dozen residents urged the directors to reconsider their decision to hire Murray.
According to a Twitter poll conducted by the Tribune-Review, the promotion of Murray to head football coach is wildly unpopular.
Murray had been the assistant head coach under longtime head coach George Novak for the past five years.
Before the board meeting, per the Tribune-Review, dozens of people gathered outside the district administrative building on Jones Avenue in North Braddock for a rally organized by the Alliance for Police Accountability, a Pittsburgh advocacy organization focused on criminal justice reform.
“I know how deep the spirit of sports is at Woodland Hills,” Brandi Fisher, founder and CEO of the organization, told the Tribune-Review. “And Coach Novak is retiring, and they need someone else to take his place, at all costs — at the cost of children being beaten, at the cost of children being abused and at the cost of children being charged with aggravated assault.”
Those at the rally were there in support of a 14-year-old high school student who was injured in a conflict involving a police officer at the school earlier this month. The teen said the Churchill (Pa.)officer beat him up and knocked out one of his front teeth during an arrest, and that Murray witnessed at least part of the fight.
The school district maintains that Murray was not involved in the April incident.
Murray was placed on paid administrative leave on Nov. 30 after an audio recording from April surfaced which showed the principal verbally assaulting a teenager. Per the Tribune-Review, the principal said on the recording, “I’ll punch you right in your face, dude,” and “I’ll knock your (expletive) teeth down your throat.”
The conversation was recorded because the victim’s mother had doubted her son was actually being verbally abused by the principal. According to the Tribune-Review, Murray returned to the job in late January.