DA won’t file charges against SPHS teacher and releases of SPPD report

March 22, 2000
Santa Paula News
The District Attorney’s Office made the rare move of releasing the full police report detailing the arrest of a Santa Paula school teacher with a press release noting the prosecutors decision not to press chargers related to the incident. According to the press release issued March 15, criminal charges will not be filed against Mary Louise Peterson for her classroom conduct on March 3.“Although evidence supports her arrest and prosecution for resisting an officer in the performance of his/her duty and refusing to leave a school campus after being suspended, it is our considered opinion that this matter is best resolved administratively or in the civil courts. Santa Paula Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Brand concurred in this decision,” noted the press release.Both the conduct of the school administrators and the SPPD was professional and appropriate in an effort to “minimize school disruption and resolve this matter short of an arrest,” states the press release by Deputy District Attorney Greg Totten. “Unfortunately, Ms. Peterson’s conduct made this impossible.”The incident has received national publicity more linked to Peterson’s screening of the Academy Award nominated film - the R-rated “American Beauty” - than an ongoing personnel issue that resulted in Peterson - a first year teacher at SPHS and a part-time instructor at Ventura College - being informed by SPHS administrators that her contract would not be renewed approximately a week before her arrest.According to the District Attorney’s press release, “ it is also important to note that Ms. Peterson was suspended for not showing her class (of junior and senior students) an R-rated film, but for insubordination and disruptive behavior in the classroom. Since Ms. Peterson’s arrest has received substantial public attention and the facts have, in some instances, been distorted, we are taking the unusual step of releasing the police reports in this matter.”
The SPPD report on the incident notes Peterson’s refusal to leave the classroom after being requested to do so repeatedly by school administrators and police officers. In addition, she told students not to leave the classroom when requested to by an administrator accompanied by school security; one student did leave but another became belligerent and - using foul and abusive language - ordered the administrators to close the classroom door. At one point the student left his seat to attempt to close the door and threatened to strike the security guard. It was only when the female administrator grabbed the student and ordered him back to his seat that he again sat down. It was then that the SPPD was contacted. The student left with officers and was later suspended for five days.When Dr. Brand ultimately entered the classroom to request Peterson to step outside, the teacher refused and said she would be conducting a sit in. After further discussion with police, Dr. Brand told Peterson that she was suspended and if she did not leave the classroom she would be arrested for trespassing. After the arrest, Dr. Brand requested that Peterson be escorted to his office by the teacher refused.The whole incident from Peterson’s first contact with school administrators to her arrest took almost an hour.

Site Search



Call 805 525 1890 to receive the entire paper early. $50.00 for one year.