Racial Remarks Jeopardize Calif. District's State Aid

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The California Department of Education has threatened to withhold all state aid from a remote Northern California school district for refusing to discipline a teacher accused of using racial slurs and threatening to reveal confidential student files.

If the state's charges against the Susanville Elementary School District are affirmed in hearings before Administrative Law Judge Muriel Evens in Sacramento, $3 million in state support could be yanked from the district's $5-million budget, forcing it to close two elementary schools.

Charges filed by the education department on behalf of a student accuse Edward Frank Murin, 45, of hurling racial slurs at high-school students, especially black and Native American football players.

The department contends that Susanville district officials did nothing about the incidents.

Mr. Murin is also alleged to have attempted to intimidate the parents who accused him of racial slurs by threatening to disclose their younger child's confidential records and by driving in a threatening manner behind their car.

Mr. Murin has taught science in a Susanville elementary school for 17 years, but the charges actually stem from his second job as a basketball and football coach in the Lassen Union High School District.

The Lassen and Susanville districts were administered by the same superintendent, Marshal S. Leve, at the time the charges were made.

The high-school district hired its own superintendent after the incidents were reported to the state in 1987, however. It subsequently negotiated a settlement with the education department, in which the district agreed to bar Mr. Murin from employment for five years, to get state approval if it wants to hire him within five years after that, and to provide cultural-sensitivity training to employees.

But officials of the elementary-school district have refused state requests to suspend Mr. Murin without pay, asserting that they do not need to discipline him because the allegations stem from his other job. The district's board also has declined state requests to discipline Mr. Leve, who remains superintendent there, for failing to act on reports of Mr. Murin's transgressions.

Joseph R. Symkowick, an education department lawyer, countered that state courts have held that public employees can be disciplined for any conduct relevant to their positions, regardless of whether it occurs at work or elsewhere.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig will have the option of suspending state financial aid to Susanville schools, an unprecedented move, if the allegations against Mr. Murin are sustained and the district still refuses to act.

Robert A. Galgani, a lawyer for the Susanville system, acknowledged that Mr. Murin was found to have used racist terms in his high-school job, but said the elementary district was unaware of such incidents before the case was filed.

Mr. Galgani said the elementary-district board put the incident involving Mr. Murin's threat to release confidential records to rest in 1988. At that time, the board found that a school principal was responsible for giving the records to Mr. Murin, disciplined the principal, and reported the incident and remedy to the U.S. Education Department.

Vol. 10, Issue 32, Page 09

Published in Print: May 1, 1991, as Racial Remarks Jeopardize Calif. District's State Aid
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