Pennsylvania principal on paid leave after pupil records threats

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A western Pennsylvania high school principal has been placed on paid leave after a 14-year-old special education student produced a recording of threatening comments made by the principal, the district superintendent said Wednesday.

Woodland Hills High School Principal Kevin Murray can be heard saying he’ll “punch you in the face” and “knock your … teeth down your throat,” according to the recording the teen’s attorney first shared with KDKA-TV on Tuesday.

At one point, the principal also is heard apparently mocking the student’s threat to notify police saying, “When we go to court it’s your word versus mine, and mine wins every time.”

Murray didn’t immediately respond to an email Wednesday and couldn’t immediately be located by phone.

District Superintendent Alan Johnson said the school doesn’t condone the language, but wants to investigate the surrounding circumstances of the remarks and the recording before passing judgment on Murray, who is in his second year as principal after being promoted from assistant. Woodland Hills is in Pittsburgh’s eastern suburbs.

Johnson also has asked the local Churchill police to investigate the threats and the recording, which may be illegal because Pennsylvania’s wiretap law forbids recording someone without their permission, with some exceptions.

Todd Hollis, the teen’s attorney, didn’t return calls from The Associated Press. But he told KDKA the student recorded the principal because the threats had been ongoing, but nobody would believe the student’s claims.

“The child felt he had to tape it in order to get credibility,” Hollis said. “No one believed that the principle would or could do such a thing.”

Hollis also doesn’t believe the principal had a reasonable “expectation of privacy” in this instance, as spelled out under the wiretap law.

The school district recognizes “there are a great many things we do not yet know about what happened and what triggered the outburst by the administrator,” Johnson said in an email Wednesday. “We will be investigating this matter fully and will take whatever disciplinary actions are appropriate when we have a full set of facts at our disposal.”

The student remains enrolled, but Johnson says he can’t discuss specifics because of confidentiality rules covering both students and district personnel.