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Police End Investigation of Coach

March 14, 2001

DETROIT (AP) _ Police ended an investigation of a high school football coach accused of paddling students who received poor grades.

A prosecutor declined to issue a warrant against Joel Blankenship, a teacher and coach at Detroit Murray-Wright High School.

``We requested a warrant, but a prosecutor reviewed it and apparently found there was insufficient evidence to sign it,″ said Sgt. Gawaine Hughes of the Detroit Police child abuse section.

School officials suspended Blankenship for one week without pay with the stipulation that further infractions would cost him his job.

``I don’t feel good about any of it,″ Blankenship said Wednesday. ``I’m very remorseful. I apologized from day one, and I still feel bad about it.″

A message was left Wednesday with the prosecutor’s office.

The investigation came after 15-year-old freshman Omi Judkins told police he and as many as seven other players were paddled by Blankenship on Jan. 22.

Judkins’ mother, LaTanya Pruett, said she took her son to a hospital to have his bruises examined and a doctor there told her to report the matter to police and child welfare authorities. Judkins since has enrolled at another school.

At a disciplinary hearing in February, Blankenship admitted paddling the student and said he had paddled players throughout his seven years as coach. He said he was paddled when he played football at Murray-Wright.

Keith Johnson of the Detroit Federation of Teachers represented Blankenship at the hearing.

``Let’s not single out Mr. Blankenship as some type of aberration,″ he said. ``But what happened should not have happened, and will not happen again.″

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