Tennis: Venice coach on paid leave after inappropriate contact with student alleged
Venice High tennis coach Michael Finegold has been placed on paid leave after allegations of improper physical contact with a 16-year-old student on campus during last Friday’s football game.
Ellen Morgan of Los Angeles Unified School District’s Office of Communication said that due to an ongoing investigation, the school district is unable to answer any specific questions on the matter but did refer to a letter that Venice High Principal Dr. Elsa Mendoza sent home with students yesterday.
In the letter, Mendoza states, “The purpose of this letter is to inform you of an investigation involving alleged misconduct by a school employee who has been removed from campus pending the results of the District’s administrative investigation.”
Mendoza continued that, “The school and District administration have fully cooperated with the authorities. At the direction of the Los Angeles Police Department, the case is to be handled concurrently administratively by the District.”
She further said, “Due to legal constraints regarding confidential personnel matters, the details of this incident cannot be disclosed. The employee has been removed from the campus and will not return until the District’s administrative investigation is complete and the allegations are determined to be unfounded.”
While the school and the LAUSD did not say which employee was involved, a witness to the alleged incident said it took place between Finegold and the student inside the press box during the first half of the game against University, Friday night.
Finegold has been the long-time public address announcer of the varsity football games since coming to Venice High back in 1992 to teach history when the school expanded to include the ninth grade. Prior to that, he had been a teacher at nearby Mark Twain Junior High for 10 years, according to his page on the school’s website.
Finegold is the coach for the girls and boys tennis teams and multiple sources on campus have said that Finegold was not in his classroom yesterday.
The witness, who wishes to remain anonymous due to fear of reprisal, stated that Finegold and the student were sitting in the far corner of the press box and were allegedly cuddling, tickling and play fighting with each other during the game.
Another allegation made by the witness is that the student reached across his lap multiple times, in-between his legs, to access the power strip located under the table where the student was charging their phone.
Furthermore, the witness overheard Finegold say to the student during the game, “Don’t do that while I’m announcing, same rules as when I’m teaching,” as well as “You know why I wear long shorts? So I don’t expose myself.”
Finally, the witness claimed that just before the end of the second quarter, Finegold said he was going back to his car at halftime. The student asked if he want to go to his car together.
Finegold responded only if the student wanted to. After a brief discussion, both agreed to go to the car and left the press box together, according to the witness.
Venice High administrators spoke with the witness and this reporter at halftime as they were the only other people in the press box besides Finegold and the student.
Following the break, Finegold and the student returned to the press box for the second half, before Mendoza entered the room and removed the student shortly after kickoff.
Finegold was allowed to continue to announce the rest of the football game.
LAPD has refused to say anything more about the matter citing the sensitive nature of the investigation.
Venice High’s girls’ tennis match against Westchester is still scheduled for today, but no coach has been named in the interim.
[Editor Note: The writer has been interviewed by LAPD regarding the alleged incident as he was in the vicinity of the area.]
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