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Teacher Put on Administrative Leave Over Film

Education: The action follows the woman's trespass arrest. She had shown 'American Beauty' in class.


SANTA PAULA — A Santa Paula High School English teacher who was arrested in class has been placed on indefinite administrative leave, officials said Tuesday.

Santa Paula Union High School District Supt. William Brand said he notified Mary Louise Rawn-Peterson, 41, in writing that she had been placed on leave, which could lead to her termination.

"The notice just tells her to make an appointment to come into the office to discuss the administrative leave and her options at this time," Brand said.

Rawn-Peterson was arrested on trespassing charges Monday in front of her students after she defied Brand's order to leave the classroom to discuss her showing of the R-rated film "American Beauty" to her senior students last week.

Rawn-Peterson had previously been reprimanded for not obtaining permission from the school board to exhibit the film and school officials Monday were trying to clarify the reprimand, Brand said.

Because she is a probationary employee, Rawn-Peterson's rights are limited under the district's contract with the teachers' union, said her attorney, Edward Lacey.

Lacey said he has not yet reviewed the arrest report prepared by the Santa Paula Police Department. But he criticized school authorities.

"Usually districts are sensitive to disturbances on campus," he said.

"The only disturbance here was created by officials who had the cops come in and arrest her, even though she wasn't a danger, or a harm, or a threat to anyone."

The arrest has attracted considerable attention. Brand said he was swamped with telephone calls Tuesday from the media.

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