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Six Taft High employees reassigned over hazing allegations

L.A. Unified and LAPD officials are investigating whether the Woodland Hills school's principal, volleyball coach and four other employees knew about a hazing incident and didn't report it.

February 25, 2009|Jason Song and Eric Sondheimer

Six employees at Taft High School were reassigned Tuesday while school district and law enforcement officials investigate an alleged hazing incident in the boys locker room on the Woodland Hills campus.

Los Angeles Unified School District officials declined to identify the employees who were removed from the school and assigned to district offices, but district sources said Principal Sharon Thomas and volleyball coach Arman Mercado were among them.

Thomas and Mercado could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The six employees were disciplined because they allegedly did not report the hazing in a timely manner. The incident, which only involved students, was reported to the Los Angeles Police Department on Jan. 30. But top school district officials said they were not aware of the incident until Feb. 17.

"A child abuse report that may not have been filed is of great concern to us," said David Holmquist, the district's chief operating officer.

District officials and police officials are also investigating if the hazing incident is part of a series of such behavior at the school. An LAPD news release said that on Feb. 20, "additional information was provided to the LAPD which indicated that the scope of the possible criminal activity extended beyond an isolated incident."

The suspended employees will work in nonschool settings until the investigation is completed, according to Holmquist.

Mercado, who coaches both the girls and boys volleyball teams, was awarded the California Interscholastic Federation's Model Coach award in 2006. His boys teams have reached the city championships six times in his eight years as coach.

At a Tuesday meeting of about 450 spring-sport athletes and coaches at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, the school's athletic director, Rick Prizant, said the alleged Taft incident was a reminder to students and administrators that they must immediately notify law enforcement officials if they suspect hazing.

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jason.song@latimes.com

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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