Nipomo High girls wrestling coach suspended amid claims of inappropriate touching, comments

Former Nipomo High School girls wrestling coach Justin Magdaleno talks to his team at the end of a practice in January 2017.
Former Nipomo High School girls wrestling coach Justin Magdaleno talks to his team at the end of a practice in January 2017. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Nipomo High School girls wrestling coach and teacher Justin Magdaleno is under investigation by the Lucia Mar Unified School District and has been placed on paid administrative leave, according to Chuck Fiorentino, assistant superintendent of human resources.

Fiorentino said the district is investigating complaints made by parents against Magdaleno but declined to elaborate Friday, citing confidential personnel matters.

According to two parents, who spoke to The Tribune under the condition of anonymity to protect the identities of their daughters, about 10 team members came forward earlier this month with accusations of inappropriate touching and comments by Magdaleno.

One student told her mother that Magdaleno said she had a nice butt and made different remarks that made her feel uncomfortable. When her daughter was getting fitted for wrestling apparel, for example, Magdeleno told her “you will need an extra large, your boobs are so perfect,” the parent said.

Since this occurred, “we noticed a different attitude change (in their daughter),” the parent added. “She wanted to quit the team.”

Another parent told The Tribune her daughter experienced “wrongful touching and verbal comments that were not appropriate,” but declined to be specific.

Magdaleno’s alleged conduct took place within the past year, according to the parents, whose daughters are both under 18 years old.

“A lot of the girls are happy that someone said something about it because some were afraid to speak up,” said the second parent.

According to both parents, Magdaleno was placed on paid leave about a week after the accusations were made. Magdaleno later told team members that he would resign, according to the parents. Fiorentino said Wednesday that Magdaleno remains employed by the school while the district conducts its investigation. According to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, Magdaleno’s teaching credential was still valid as of Friday afternoon.

Nipomo High School athletic director Russ Edwards declined to comment on Magdaleno’s situation and referred The Tribune to the Lucia Mar School District Human Resources Department.

According to one parent, the mother of another team member reported Magdeleno’s accusations to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said in an emailed statement that “The Sheriff's Office does not discuss active investigations nor can it confirm if an investigation is being conducted.”

When asked if law enforcement officials were investigating the complaints, Fiorentino replied that they could be, “but I can’t comment on that.”

According to one parent, girls wrestling practice has been canceled until a new coach can be hired.

Magdaleno, a Righetti High and Cal Poly graduate, has been a teacher at Nipomo High for six years, according to his biography on the school’s website. In 2013 Magdaleno founded the girls wrestling team at Nipomo High, the first such team in San Luis Obispo County, after coaching the girls wrestling team at Pioneer Valley High in Santa Maria. Magdaleno, who teaches psychology and government at Nipomo High, did not respond to multiple attempts by The Tribune to reach him for comment.

Both parents said they feared for their daughters’ safety moving forward and expressed concern over how the district has been handling the situation. Both said they should have been notified of the situation sooner.

The girls wrestling season is set to begin Nov. 25 with a league meet at Santa Maria High School. As of early September, there were 40 girls signed up for the team this season, the most in the program’s short history. The team had 22 members last season.

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