CdM drama teacher resigns

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

Ron Martin, a nine-year CdM veteran 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 the sake of his health and to avoid having to go 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, which involved a minor student, police spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella said.

"They're doing a very thorough investigation of this case," she said.

No charges have been filed against Martin, who lives in Costa Mesa, according to Orange County Superior Court records.

Newport-Mesa spokeswoman Laura Boss said the district is cooperating with the police investigation but declined to discuss details.

"The award-winning drama program at Corona del Mar Middle/High School is an important part of the school culture," Boss wrote in an email. "A new drama teacher has been selected, and she will be in place to support the program for the new school year."

This isn't the first time Martin has been under scrutiny. The teacher was placed on administrative leave in October 2009 for reasons not 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 CdM earlier that year.

The flap made national headlines and garnered support for the production from gay-rights and free-speech advocates. Some members of the community felt that the play's themes, which include homosexuality and prostitution, were inappropriate for teenage performers. However, supporters of the play believed the sentiments were a homophobic assault 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 CdM 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's felt scrutinized by the district 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."

Boss confirmed that Martin was not offered any retirement package or other incentive to resign.

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