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Dunbar football coach Lawrence Smith allowed to return to sideline

Lawrence Smith was temporarily reinstated Monday as Dunbar football coach after a restraining order lifted a one-year suspension handed down over an alleged hazing incident in the locker room last fall.

The 10-day restraining order issued by Judge Stephen Sfekas of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City put Smith back on the field with the Poets for Monday afternoon's practice.

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Smith, who declined to comment, waited for his players on the field Monday, but most of them knew he was back by the time they finished the short walk from the school. One player, however, stopped in the middle of the field, apparently unsure he was really seeing Smith, who had hugs for his players.

The Poets went 5-2 under interim coach Michael Carter, their defensive coordinator.

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"It's seems like we got a big piece of our family back," said Chauncey Jackson, a junior linebacker and fullback. "We had people leave the school because we didn't have him here, so the people who was here, it was nice that they stayed. Coach Carter did a real good job, but it's great to have Coach Smith back."

Smith, who was suspended in June, last week filed a motion for the restraining order against the Baltimore City Public Schools and the Baltimore City school board, alleging that schools officials did not legally or promptly handle his case, so that it might not be resolved until after football season.

"Given the city school system's, followed by the school board's, refusal to comply with clear law, we had no choice but to ask the courts to intervene," said Kathleen Cahill, Smith's attorney. "That's an extraordinary measure, but that's what we had to do to return him to the job and to stop the rogue school board in an illegal course of action."

According to Smith's complaint, after he appealed the suspension, which was based on an alleged violation of the city schools' Handbook on Interscholastic Athletics for not supervising the locker room, a hearing examiner ruled in Smith's favor and recommended the suspension be overturned. Two weeks ago, however, the school board stayed the recommendation and opted for an evidentiary hearing, which Smith alleges in the complaint is not part of the process laid out in the handbook.

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The restraining order is renewable for another 10 days and then there would be a hearing on a preliminary injunction that would remain in place through the rest of litigation, Cahill said.

Baltimore City Public Schools officials commented only through a statement issued Monday, saying they "are disappointed with the court's ruling," but "will comply."

Smith, who has coached Dunbar's football team to five state championships since 2007, is also the Poets' softball coach and their Special Olympics bocce ball coach. The restraining order does not apply to his job as a city schools police officer, and he will not return to Dunbar in that capacity.

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