YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

O.C. high school drama teacher who fought to stage 'Rent' resigns

August 27, 2013|By Hannah Fry

A drama teacher at Corona del Mar High School who was placed on leave in June after a student accused him of battery has resigned.

Ron Martin, who won accolades from free-speech advocates for fighting to stage a campus production of "Rent," confirmed Tuesday that he left his job last week for health reasons and to avoid having to come before the school district's review board.

"I'm disappointed that it happened this way," said Martin, 57. "From what I understood, I was guilty and had to prove my innocence."

Newport Beach Police Department detectives are still investigating the incident and no charges have been filed. School officials said the district is cooperating with the investigation, but declined to discuss details of their cooperation.

This isn't the first time Martin has been under scrutiny. The teacher was placed on administrative leave in October 2009 for reasons never made public by the school district.

However, Martin believes the move was in retaliation for the controversy surrounding the production of the rock opera "Rent" that he attempted to stage at the school earlier that year.

The production made national headlines and garnered support from gay-rights and free-speech advocates. Some parents and community leaders, however, felt the play's themes, which include homosexuality and prostitution, were inappropriate for teenage performers. Others believed those sentiments were homophobic and an attack on free speech.

The uproar continued when the American Civil Liberties Union sued the school district in March 2009 for promoting a homophobic atmosphere, according to court documents. The district settled out of court after vowing to promote tolerance on campus.

After the lawsuit ended in April 2009, a watered-down version of "Rent" was staged at Corona del Mar High with protesters from the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., and gay rights supporters gathered outside.

Martin eventually returned to work after the incident, but said he had felt scrutinized ever since.

"Since the 'Rent' issue, the district has continued to harass me and make my job more difficult," Martin said. "I couldn't get things approved by the district and my complaints would go ignored."


Downed cables close westbound 91 Freeway in Anaheim

Panga boat found near Mugu Rock raises human smuggling concerns

Joe Francis of 'Girls Gone Wild' gets 270 days for assault, imprisonment

Los Angeles Times Articles