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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Regional

Teacher Who Showed R Movie Placed on Leave

March 09, 2000

SANTA PAULA — A Santa Paula High School English teacher who was arrested in class after showing the R-rated film "American Beauty" to students has been placed on indefinite administrative leave, officials said this week.

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 film to her senior students last week.

Rawn-Peterson had previously been reprimanded for not obtaining permission from the school board to show the film, and school officials were trying Monday 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."

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