San Benito High School Principal Todd Dearden has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an ongoing investigation, Superintendent John Perales announced in an email to school staff on Thursday.
Assistant Principal Adrian Ramirez has been appointed as interim principal, Perales said.
No other details were immediately available, with Perales telling BenitoLink that his message to staff, in which he said he made the announcement of the investigation with "deep regret," was all he could say about the matter.
First-term SBHS Trustee Juan Robledo, a former longtime teacher at the school who was not on the board when Dearden was hired in 2014, told BenitoLink that the placing of Dearden on paid leave during the investigation "is a normal procedure when dealing with this kind of situation." He said the matter was a "conduct investigation" and not a criminal matter and that the board became aware of the situation on Wednesday and found out Thursday about Dearden being placed on leave.
Robledo noted that while trustees are aware of the investigation, they are not involved with it.
Dearden was unanimously approved as principal by the SBHS Board of Trustees in 2014, when he took over for Principal Krystal Lomanto, who was transitioning to her new job as county superintendent of schools.
Dearden previously served as principal of Sonora High School for seven years, ending in January 2014, when he accepted a role as director of special projects and programs within the district through the end of that school year. He was hired at SBHS before that school year ended.
While principal at Sonora, Dearden in 2012 was accused by a parent of striking her son while breaking up a fight on campus. An article in the Union-Democrat newspaper from September 2012 said that the Tuolumne County district attorney decided not to pursue charges against Dearden, citing "insufficient evidence."
Upon his hiring at SBHS, officials said they were aware of the incident and that Dearden remained their top choice out of numerous candidates.