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Action pending after probe into JROTC discipline at Catalina High

Citizen Staff Writer



Tucson Unified School District’s investigation into alleged misconduct by a Catalina Magnet High School JROTC instructor and the barred use of pushups as discipline is complete.

No results will be released until after personnel action is taken, officials said, adding they did not know when that would be.

The focus of the probe was an instructor, Air Force Master Sgt. Mark Wagner.

He was cited in a five-page complaint letter by an anonymous Catalina JROTC member who wrote that Wagner made derogatory remarks about homosexuals, harassed students and made them do pushups as punishment. Penalty pushups are not allowed at the high school level under an Air Force policy.

The investigation began early this month after the district and the commander of Air Force JROTC headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama received the letter.

About 100 cadets participate in the Catalina program, named by the Air Force as a Distinguished Unit the past five years. In 2007-08 the designation was Distinguished Unit with Merit, according to e-mails to district officials from retired Air Force Lt. Col. August De Rosa, the lead Catalina JROTC instructor.

The student, who was in JROTC for all four years of high school and who Principal Linda Patterson referred to as “stellar,” said Wagner missed classes frequently, insulted homosexuals, favored some cadets over others in promotions and insulted President Obama.

The Tucson Citizen received documents from the district investigation after making a public records request.

Wagner, in an e-mail to Air Force headquarters instructor management, said the “majority of the complaints in the letter are outright lies, innuendo and misrepresentation of the facts.”

De Rosa, responding to district investigators’ questions about pushups, said he didn’t know until after the probe began that such discipline was not allowed.

He said he sends parental permission slips for physical training, which include “pushups, sit-ups, wall sits, etc.,” and gets 100 percent approval.

The slips state, “Great care is taken to ensure that physical discipline is not abused, in other words, cadets are not given excessive physical activity that would result in injury.”

The cadet complained: “On an average day (Wagner) assigns around 250 total pushups, generally in sets of 25. . . . He gives out pushups for various things such as talking while he is talking, cursing, walking into his office without permission or stating your opinion if it contradicts his.”

In Wagner’s response, he denied the pushups allegation.

De Rosa, in an e-mail to Patterson, said, “When I announced the suspension of all physical punishment until the legal department makes a review, there was an outpouring of disappointment from the cadet flights. Today I found the cadets expect some type of consequences for lack of homework/failure. Is not 10 pushups better than a failing academic grade?

“They wanted to have their parents call and complain,” he said. “Please do your best to ensure this tool isn’t taken from my teacher’s toolbox. It has been quite successful when meted out by MSgt. Wagner and myself.”

Wagner complained to the district about the man investigating the case, saying he was “biased and prejudicial.”

In regard to the cadet’s accusation that Wagner said homosexuals were “confused,” or “ferry nice fellows” and had “target identification problems,” Wagner said in his responses to the probe that “in my open and honest relationship with my cadets, I have freely expressed my disagreement with the homosexual lifestyle. This took place mostly in private conversations in my office and once or twice in the classroom as the subject came up.

“I have been honest with homosexual cadets in the past, letting them know that I did not agree with the lifestyle but that I would not tolerate anyone picking on them or calling them names. Now, to my shame, I realize that I have done the very thing I said I would protect them against.”

He also told the district he “avoided political discussions prior to the (presidential) election because of school district policy. After the election I made comments about the president’s selection of tax dodgers to his cabinet. . . . However, shortly after the inauguration, realizing that I wear the uniform and represent the government, I ceased making any negative comments.”

He implored district officials to talk with random cadets to get the full picture.

Efforts to contact Wagner and Patterson Thursday night were unsuccessful.

Action pending after probe into JROTC discipline at Catalina High

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