Free Speech on Campus graphic

Texas high school censors paper, fires award-winning journalism adviser – March 2018

Prosper, TX

After experiencing several instances of administrative censorship, a high school newspaper in Prosper, Texas, learned that its award-winning veteran adviser would not have her contract renewed. The Student Press Law Center learned of the incident and sent a letter to the school district’s superintendent criticizing the high school’s pattern of censorship.

Key Players

Eagle Nation Online is the school newspaper at Prosper High School (PHS) in Prosper, Texas, a small town directly north of Dallas, that began publishing in 2016.

Lori Oglesbee-Petter was a journalism teacher at PHS from May 2016 to May 2018, when her contract came to an end. Oglesbee-Petter advised high school publications in three different states over the course of 34 years and has been involved in the Journalism Education Association (JEA). She has also won pedagogical commendations, being named 2005 Texas Journalism Teacher of the Year and JEA’s 2009 National Yearbook Adviser of the Year. She served on JEA’s executive board for more than a decade.

During Oglesbee-Petter’s short tenure at PHS, her journalism students collectively won more than 175 state and national journalism awards. For example, in April 2018, three staffers from the Eagle Nation Online staff won Gold Key awards from the Quill and Scroll International Journalism Society for their photography work. Four of the paper’s staffers were also selected for the University Interscholastic League (UIL) All State Journalism team, a form of academic competition across Texas.

John Burdett has been the principal at PHS since March 2017. He allegedly criticized the Eagle for publishing articles that were unflattering to the school and not “uplifting” to the community.

The Student Press Law Center (SPLC) is a nonprofit legal assistance agency that focuses on defending the rights of high school and college journalists.

Further Details

The Eagle Nation Online faced at least two incidents of censorship by the PHS administration in the 2017 – 2018 school year. The school district’s policy is that school administrators and trustees retain final editorial authority over school-funded publications, including the Eagle. The board of trustees of Prosper Independent School District (ISD) is predominantly made up of parents of Prosper ISD students, with one former school administrator.

“All publications edited, printed, or distributed in the name of or within the District schools shall be under the control of the school administration and the Board,” reads the PHS prior review policy, according to the SPLC.

In October 2017, Eagle copy editor Isabella Abraham, then a high school junior, published an article discussing a senior class event that had been cancelled due to miscommunication between past administrators and Burdett, the current principal. The day after the article was published, Burdett told Oglesbee-Petter to remove the story from the site, saying it was not uplifting or accurate, reported the SPLC. According to a letter sent by the paper’s staff to administrators, Burdett also claimed the story painted former principal Gregory Wright in a negative manner. The Eagle stood by the accuracy of the story and argued it was important to clarify the status of the event for PHS seniors.

In February 2018, then-junior and staff writer Haley Stack authored an editorial criticizing the high school’s decision to remove the novel A Separate Peace from the 10th grade English curriculum. Though no reason was given for the book’s removal, Stack theorized the book’s homoerotic undertones were the impetus.

“Censorship of books is censorship of thinking for yourself,” Stack wrote.

A week later, Burdett asked for the editorial to be removed because of grammatical errors and “a lack of positivity,” according to the SPLC. Eagle staff acknowledged that there were exactly two grammatical errors — an extraneous period and an apostrophe missing form the word “let’s.”

Following the removal of Stack’s article, the paper’s staff was told that any story which could be considered controversial, depicts the school negatively, or opposes “community norms” must be sent to administration for prior review before publication. Although they complied with this directive, Eagle staff wrote in an April 2018 letter to the school’s administration that it found the policy unnecessary.

“Since we did not want to be censored again or have any more restrictions, we sent [Burdett] every story that was questionable,” the letter read. “We do not think that Eagle Nation Online will need this kind of prior review next year, with or without our current adviser.”

The letter alluded to the termination of Oglesbee-Petter, which had been announced the previous month. In March 2018, Eagle staff were informed that she would not return as their adviser after the school year concluded. Burdett was not required to explain the decision because Oglesbee-Petter was a temporary staff member, but some Eagle staffers saw the move as retaliatory. According to the terms of her contract, Oglesbee-Petter was not permitted to speak with reporters inquiring about the newspaper’s situation.

In its April letter, the staff petitioned Burdett, the superintendent, and members of the school board to allow Oglesbee-Petter to return. The letter also criticized prior incidents of censorship, among other matters.

“We feel a school newspaper is vital […] because a student’s voice when found and used to stand up for their beliefs, can not only make the student body more engaged but can change the school for the better,” the staff wrote.

Eagle staff never received a reply, according to then-junior and associate editor Neha Madhira. However, Madhira recalled Burdett mentioning the letter to her in an April 2018 interview and calling it “false,” according to the SPLC.

In May 2018, Madhira authored an editorial criticizing a team bonding activity Burdett organized in response to school shootings across the country. Burdett blocked the publication of the editorial, saying it was inaccurate and not representative of the opinions of all PHS students.

He subsequently prohibited the publication of any editorials by the Eagle. This policy remained in place as of June 2018.

“Any problem we face that we wanted to write about, we were censored. It’s like he just wanted happy news out there,” Madhira said in an interview with the Dallas News.

“If a story goes against the community norms, I will say no. […] That’s part of the reason I was hired … to make sure that what is being published is a fair representation of Prosper High School or Prosper ISD,” Burdett said in a meeting with Madhira, a recording of which was obtained by the Dallas News. “That doesn’t mean we couldn’t publish something controversial.”

Outcome

SPLC sends a letter to Prosper High School administrators

On May 31, 2018, the SPLC sent a letter to Drew Watkins, the superintendent of the Prosper Independent School District, calling on him to “intervene in the situation” at PHS. The letter was signed by 17 other organizations, including the Journalism Education Association (JEA) and the National Coalition Against Censorship, and expressed the SPLC’s concern over the incidents of censorship at PHS and the dismissal of Oglesbee-Petter.

On June 1, Watkins was injured in an accident while out for a morning run, putting him out of his office for “an undetermined period of time to recover from his injuries,” according to a tweet from the Prosper Press, a local newspaper. Watkins was released from the hospital on June 19. There has been no response yet to the SPLC’s letter.

External References

Prosper ISD School Board Members

Staff members win international awards, Eagle Nation Online

Texas principal censors paper, bans all editorials and ousts award-winning adviser, Student Press Law Center

Prosper High School journalists allege newspaper censorship by principal, fight editorial policy, Dallas News

Texas school faces censorship, St. Louis Park Echo

SPLC sends letter to Texas school district to stop censoring student media, 17 orgs sign on, Student Press Law Center

Alleged censorship of high school paper fuels hope for legislative action, The Texas Monitor

Some news on @ProsperISD Superintendent Dr. Drew Watkins, Twitter

Prepared by Maya Gandhi ’20

Uploaded July 9, 2018

Free Speech on Campus graphic

Florida teen faces disciplinary action after racist ‘promposal’  – April 23, 2018

Sarasota, FL

Noah Crowley, a high school senior in Sarasota, Florida, asked a fellow classmate to prom using a poster in April 2018. This “promposal” was met with massive backlash due to its seemingly racist message, and subsequently Crowley’s high school banned him from attending the prom and graduation.

Key Player

Noah Crowley was a high school senior at Riverview High School in Sarasota when he decided to ask his girlfriend to the prom using a poster with a clever message on it, as has become customary for many students around the United States. He posted a picture of himself holding the poster and sent it to his girlfriend on the social media app Snapchat. His poster’s message was widely interpreted to be overtly racist, and a picture of it went viral on social media.

Further Details

On April 23, 2018, Crowley used the social media app Snapchat to send his girlfriend a photo of himself holding up a poster that read: “If I was black, I’d be picking cotton, but I’m white, so I’m picking u 4 prom.” The caption underneath included two heart-eye emojis. A screenshot of the Snap was posted to Twitter, and it quickly went viral. Before long, it was picked up by news outlets such as Huffington Post.

Riverview High School responded to the viral post via an automated call to parents later that day. In the message, then-acting principal Kathy Wilks said that “Riverview High School absolutely does not condone or support the message conveyed in this post.” She explained that the incident provided an opportunity for greater learning about mutual respect in the school community.

The school district later announced it would be partnering with groups such as the Sarasota NAACP to engage students in training about racism and race. Its public statement read, in part, “Although this message is one student’s opinion, we take the matter of racial relations and school safety seriously, and we look forward to working with our students and these outside groups to have a meaningful and informative dialogue and expanded curriculum related to this important national topic.”

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Tracey Beeker, a spokeswoman for the Sarasota County school district, said the district would “host roundtable discussions regarding social inequalities and racism in hopes of providing students an open and safe place to speak their minds.”

Beeker also told The Washington Post it was “more than likely” that Crowley would face disciplinary charges. She pointed to a social media policy in place within the school district, which prohibits “using profanity, obscenity, epithets or other language that violates generally accepted norms of appropriate public discourse.”

Outcome

Student banned from prom and graduation

The day after his unusual prom invitation circulated online, Crowley released a statement apologizing for its message. He called it a joke, but acknowledged that it “went too far,” and said he understood he had offended many people. “Anyone who knows me or [my girlfriend] knows that that’s not how we truly feel,” he said.

His parents announced on April 25 that they had discussed an appropriate punishment for Crowley with school administrators. They mutually decided that he would not be allowed to attend any further school functions, including the prom or his graduation ceremony.

Racist promposal inspires others

At least two “copycat” promposals have been reported since Crowley’s went viral. A Missouri teen first replicated it word-for-word on April 27, and two students in Michigan did the same on April 30. The school districts to which each of the imitators belong released statements announcing that the incidents were being investigated, and that the students responsible for circulating these copycat messages would be disciplined according to school policies.

External References

Sarasota high school investigating student’s racist ‘promposal,’ The Bradenton Herald

Sarasota student makes racist prom proposal, Herald-Tribune

This teen’s racist prom invite was a bad idea. But a free-speech expert says it’s his right, The Salt Lake Tribune

This teen’s racist prom invite was a bad idea. But a free-speech expert says it’s his right, The Washington Post

Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’, Tampa Bay Times

Missouri Teenager Copies Viral Racist ‘Promposal’ Sign, The Independent

Michigan teens copycat racist ‘picking cotton’ promposal, Detroit Free Press

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded June 27, 2018

Free Speech on Campus graphic

High school valedictorian prevented from giving graduation speech – May 25, 2018

Covington, KY

Christian Bales, a graduating senior and valedictorian at Holy Cross High School in Covington, Kentucky, was told hours before his graduation ceremony that the local Catholic diocese would not permit him to deliver the speech he had prepared for the occasion. Using a megaphone after the formal ceremony, Bales gave his speech outside the school instead.

Key Players

Christian Bales graduated from Holy Cross High School on May 25, 2018. He was valedictorian of his class, and was slated to give the keynote address during the graduation ceremony. Bales is openly gay and gender-nonconforming, and though neither of those things had been an issue at his Catholic school before the incident, he later questioned in interviews whether that might have influenced the church’s decision to pull his speech.

Katherine Frantz also graduated from Holy Cross in May. During her senior year, she was student body president. She was also supposed to address the audience during the May 25 graduation ceremony, but her speech was pulled by the diocese as well.

Holy Cross High School is a private Catholic secondary school located in Covington, Kentucky, just outside Cincinnati, Ohio. It has about 385 students, and falls within the purview of the Catholic Diocese of Covington. The school’s mission statement explains that it is dedicated to diversity and acceptance of all students and their faith-lives.

Further Details

Several days before graduation, Bales’ valedictory address was reviewed — and seemingly approved — by Holy Cross administrators. The speech touched on themes of youth activism, civic engagement, and standing up for one’s beliefs. It specifically mentioned the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which was the site of a deadly shooting in February 2018, and their movement to end gun violence.

The morning of May 25, the principal of Holy Cross and other school officials informed Bales he would not be allowed to give his scheduled speech at the ceremony. The Diocese of Covington said it had reviewed it and found it to be “too angry and confrontational,” according to The New York Times. Frantz, who had also submitted her speech for review several days before graduation, was told hers was “too personal” and would also be disallowed.

The diocese later released a statement explaining that neither speech had been submitted before “the deadline,” though neither Bales nor Frantz was aware of any specific deadline. They were also unaware that review by the diocese was even a possibility, Bales said. The diocesan statement noted that the proposed speeches “were found to contain elements that were political and inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church.”

Bales frequently wore makeup and dresses to school, and had never encountered a problem with any Holy Cross officials because of it. However, the Times reported that administrators had enlisted the help of his mother to ensure that he would wear “appropriate male dress,” without makeup, to graduation. Bales had been planning to meet that expectation, and his speech did not contain any references to his sexuality. It is unclear whether the diocese took issue with his sexuality and gender-nonconformity.

Outcome

Bales and Frantz deliver speeches outside the school after the official ceremony

According to Bales, Holy Cross reprinted the graduation programs after the diocese made its decision, eliminating any mention of his or Frantz’s speeches. However, the valedictorian and student body president decided to deliver their speeches anyway. They gathered outside the school after the ceremony with other students, teachers, and family members, and used a megaphone to address their audience. The impromptu gathering proceeded without incident, and neither Bales nor Frantz faced a penalty for delivering their speeches in this manner.

Op-ed published in local newspaper

Frantz published an op-ed in a local publication, the River City News. She wrote about how hard she and Bales had worked for the opportunity to speak at graduation, and how frustrated and upset they both were when they were denied that opportunity. She also included the full text of her speech in her op-ed.

External References

Holy Cross High School Mission Statement

Denied permission to speak at his own graduation, Holy Cross valedictorian delivers speech outside, WCPO Cincinnati

Catholic School Rejected Its Gay Valedictorian’s Speech. So He Gave It With a Bullhorn. The New York Times

Kentucky valedictorian’s speech too much for religion that favors silence, Courier Journal

Gay valedictorian delivered speech through megaphone after it was rejected by Catholic school, USA Today

A Valedictorian Was Barred From Delivering His High School Graduation Speech. He Spoke by Megaphone Instead. TIME

Op-Ed: My Speech Was Also Cut from Holy Cross Graduation, The River City News

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded June 27, 2018

Free Speech on Campus graphic

Coffee shop fires two employees after Duke University official complains about music – May 2018

Durham, NC

After a Duke University administrator complained that the song playing in a campus coffee shop was vulgar and offensive, the store’s management asked two employees who had been working in the shop at the time to resign. Uproar over the incident sparked an on-campus protest, garnered national media attention, and led to criticism of the administrator’s perceived hypocrisy. Days later, the coffee shop cut ties with the university.

Key Players

Larry Moneta, who complained about the music in the coffee shop, is vice president for student affairs at Duke University, where he has worked since 2001. He oversees numerous student services, including housing, dining, health care, and student activities. In the past, Moneta has been a vocal defender of Free Speech.

Britni Brown and Kevin Simmons are the baristas who were working at the Joe Van Gogh coffee shop, a privately owned facility on Duke’s campus, when Moneta heard the music that offended him. Brown, a black woman, interacted with Moneta at the register, while Simmons, a white man, looked on as he made drinks. Both were penalized for the incident.

Further Details

On Friday, May 4, 2018, Moneta — a regular customer at the Joe Van Gogh coffee shop at Duke — went into the store for his usual order. The song playing at the time, “Get Paid” by rapper Young Dolph, contains multiple profanities, including the n-word. Moneta objected to the song’s content, later explaining in an email that he thought the sexual lyrics were “quite inappropriate for a working environment that serves children among others.”

Moneta complained to Brown, who was operating the register and was in charge of the store’s music playlist that day. She immediately shut off the song, apologized to Moneta, and offered him a muffin free of charge. He declined, and insisted he pay for it. Simmons, another barista who was on duty at the time, recalled the exchange and noted how upset the customer seemed. He later claimed Moneta was “verbally harassing” Brown.

After leaving the shop, Moneta contacted Robert Coffey, Duke’s director of dining services, to express his concerns. Coffey in turn called Robbie Roberts, the owner of Joe Van Gogh, to relay the message. About 10 minutes after Moneta left the coffee shop, Roberts called Brown to inquire about the incident. The barista said she took responsibility and apologized again.

Duke spokesperson Michael Schoenfeld said there are no university policies describing what kind of music should be played in on-campus facilities, but that there is a “general expectation” that the music be appropriate for families and children who might patronize the shop.

On May 7, Brown and Simmons were called into Joe Van Gogh’s main office in the nearby town of Hillsborough, where they met with Amanda Wiley, a human resources representative from the company, which operates stores throughout North Carolina. Wiley asked the two baristas to resign and offered them severance packages in exchange, reported Indy Week.

At that meeting, Brown voiced her concern that firing Simmons was unfair. “I feel like you guys were trying to cover it up as to make it not look discriminatory for firing a person of color,” she reportedly told Wiley.

Wiley claimed “Duke University [had] instructed [Joe Van Gogh] to terminate the employees that were working that day,” reported Indy Week. However, Moneta insisted in a statement to the Chronicle of Higher Education that his call to Coffey had been “the end of [his] involvement” in the incident, and that Joe Van Gogh’s response “to the employees’ behavior was solely at their discretion.” Schoenfeld, the university spokesperson, denied that Duke had requested the employees’ termination, asserting that the coffee shop wholly controls hiring and firing of its staff. Moneta said that “it was never [his] intent that any of the Joe Van Gogh employees be terminated.”

Outcome

Moneta accused of hypocrisy for inconsistent stance on free expression

Moneta came under fire after the incident because some, including many Duke students, construed his complaint about the music playing in the coffee shop as an attempt at censorship. As such, his action seemed to contradict his previous defenses of Free Speech.

In August 2017, Moneta had authored an op-ed in Inside Higher Ed that criticized the toppling of Confederate statues, equating it to vandalism and calling instead for “their removal through legitimate, law-abiding processes.” In April 2018, he tweeted that “freedom of expression protects the oppressed far more than the oppressors.”

The Duke administrator defended his stance on Free Speech, saying, “To those who feel that I’ve flipped on my positions on free expression, I say this. The artist who wrote, recorded and performed the music is absolutely entitled to do so, however offensive I might find the lyrics.”

Students and employees protest outside coffee shop and at Moneta’s office

On May 9, more than a dozen protesters gathered outside the Joe Van Gogh coffee shop on campus, according to The Charlotte Observer. The group — made up of students and coffee shop employees, including the two who had been terminated — blared “Get Paid” on a loop as they marched to Moneta’s office. He allowed some of the protesters in for a brief discussion, according to the Observer.

Young Dolph, the rapper behind “Get Paid,” was also critical of Moneta, writing in a May 9 tweet that he “don’t give a dam about nobody but his self.” A few days after the incident, Young Dolph donated $20,000 to the two terminated employees.

Joe Van Gogh leadership apologizes, cuts ties with Duke

On the same day, Roberts, owner of the Joe Van Gogh chain, apologized for how the company had handled the incident and invited the two employees to return to the company. He also clarified that the university was not at fault for the firing.

Brown said she was not interested in Roberts’ offer. “I have already made my mind up that I am not returning to Duke or Joe Van Gogh,” she told the Observer, calling Duke “a white supremacist campus.”

Two days later, Joe Van Gogh announced it would end its relationship with Duke and shut down its on-campus location. In a post on the company’s website, Roberts wrote that it was “the right thing to do to preserve Joe Van Gogh’s brand independence without conditions.” The company offered jobs elsewhere in the company to all employees who had worked at the university location, including Brown and Simmons.

External References

When Activism Came to My Hometown, Inside Higher Ed

A Duke University VP Walked Into the Campus Joe Van Gogh, Heard a Rap Song, Demanded That the Employees Be Fired, Indy Week

Baristas were playing the rap song ‘Get Paid.’ A Duke VP complained — and they got fired, they say, The Washington Post

Dispute over rap song leads to protest at Duke and apology from coffee shop owner, The Charlotte Observer

A Vice President, the N-Word, a Coffee Shop and Culture, Inside Higher Ed

Coffee Shop Ends Ties to Duke, Inside Higher Ed

Duke Administrator’s Complaint About Music Apparently Got 2 Campus Baristas Fired, Chronicle of Higher Education

Prepared by Maya Gandhi ’20

Uploaded June 27, 2018

Free Speech on Campus graphic

Law students at Lewis & Clark College interrupt appearance by Christina Hoff Sommers – March 5, 2018

Portland, OR

Christina Hoff Sommers, a widely known conservative scholar and commentator, spoke at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, on March 5, 2018. A small group of students protested the event, first by attempting to prevent her from entering the event space, and then by chanting and singing during her remarks.

Key Players

Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar and philosopher at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. She is best known for her opposition to modern-day feminist ideology and methodology, and she commonly expresses the view that claims of rape and sexual assault on college campuses are exaggerated, and that rape culture is not real. In April 2015, students at Oberlin College protested Sommers while she spoke on what she describes as the radicalization of feminism.

Janet Steverson is a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School and serves as its dean of diversity and inclusion. According to the school’s website, this office “is responsible for the strategy and implementation of Lewis & Clark’s commitment to a safe, welcoming, and equitable learning community.” Steverson assisted in moderating the event with Sommers, and also attempted to manage the protesters.

The Federalist Society is a national legal society with a student chapter at Lewis & Clark Law School. The group describes itself as a “non-partisan conservative and libertarian organization dedicated to freedom, federalism and judicial restraint.” According to its mission statement, one of the group’s goals is to “bring the best legal experts available” to the school, in order to “ensure that there are voices on campus to challenge…liberal orthodoxy that pervades the law school culture.” The Federalist Society invited Sommers to Lewis & Clark, and she was slated to speak on May 5 about “trigger warnings, safe spaces, and victimhood culture.”

Further Details

Ahead of Sommers’ speech, a number of student organizations from Lewis & Clark Law released a joint statement condemning the event and calling for her disinvitation. They included the local student chapters of the National Lawyers Guild, the Minority Law Student Association, the Women’s Law Caucus, the Immigration Student Group, the Jewish Law Society, the Young Democratic Socialists of America, the Black Law Student Association, the Latino Law Society, and OutLaw.

Their statement read, in part, “The Federalist Society found it necessary to unilaterally invite a known fascist to our campus to encourage what we believe to be an act of aggression and violence toward members of our society who experience racial and gendered oppression.” It continued, “We call on the Federalist Society to rescind their invitation to have Christina Sommers speak on campus.”

Sommers’ talk proceeded as planned on March 5. However, before the event, protesters blocked access to the room where she was scheduled to speak. The event organizers had to re-route access to the room, directing attendees to enter through a back entrance. Throughout Sommers’ speech, protesters chanted various refrains like “Rape culture is not a myth” and “Microaggressions are real” and “The gender wage gap is real.” At one point, they began to sing over her, apparently addressing the other students in the audience: “Which side are you on, friends? Which side are you on? No platform for fascists, no platform at all. We will fight for justice until Christina’s gone.”

Sommers was able to speak for sustained periods of time, reported Inside Higher Ed, though she later complained that she wasn’t given enough time to finish her remarks, because Steverson initiated the question-and-answer period earlier than Sommers had planned. Following the event, she criticized Steverson on Twitter for cutting her speech short.

Steverson told Inside Higher Ed that she chose to do this because she had promised the protesters they would have the opportunity to engage in dialogue with Sommers, which helped subdue some of them. Steverson said she adjusted the timetable to ensure there would be time for this conversation. Indeed, according to a statement released by Lewis & Clark, “students engaged in a vigorous discussion [with Sommers] during the question-and-answer session.”

Outcome

Lewis & Clark condemns students’ demonstration, indicates possible disciplinary action

Following the event, Lewis & Clark released a statement about the protest. The school said it did “not condone the intentional efforts by even a few students to prevent this speaker from communicating her views to the vast majority of students who were willing to hear and debate them…Critical thinking and discourse are integral to the mission of Lewis & Clark Law School.” The statement also noted that the school would be “taking appropriate disciplinary actions in accordance with school policies.”

External References

Law students at Lewis & Clark College interrupt appearance by Christina Hoff Sommers, Inside Higher Ed

The Federalist Society at Lewis & Clark webpage

Statement on the Christina Hoff Sommers Event at the Law School, Lewis & Clark

Student organizations statement on Christina Hoff Sommers, @CHSommers Twitter

Law students caught crying ‘wolf’ over Christina Hoff Sommers speech, Washington Examiner

Students Protest Sommers’ Lecture, The Oberlin Review

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded June 25, 2018

Free Speech on Campus graphic

After punishing students for sit-in, UC Davis accused of selectively enforcing free expression policy – January 2018

Davis, CA

In January 2018, about 50 University of California, Davis students — led by the school’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) — protested proposed tuition increases by occupying the lobby of an administrative building on campus. Six of the students faced disciplinary hearings for occupying the building overnight, which invited comparisons to past demonstrations after which disciplinary procedures were not enforced. Many on the university’s board of governors joined students in their stark opposition to the tuition hikes, which were ultimately delayed.

Key Players

The University of California (UC) Board of Regents is the governing body of the entire UC system, and comprises 26 voting members appointed by the governor of California. The board includes the UC president, currently Janet Napolitano, and the California governor, currently Democrat Jerry Brown.

Gary May is the chancellor of UC Davis. His predecessor, Linda Katehi, was the object of student protests and resigned in August 2016.

Students for a Democratic Society at Davis is a chapter of a larger left-wing student activist movement dating back to the mid-twentieth century. The chapter’s self-described focus is “improving education rights, workers’ rights, and putting an end to racism, patriarchy, war and imperialism,” according to its Facebook page. Many of the student protesters in January were affiliated with SDS at Davis.

Further Details

In January 2018, the UC Board of Regents proposed a tuition increase for the entire UC system. The proposal would have increased baseline in-state tuition and fees by 2.7 percent, from $12,630 to $12,972. It also included a 3.5 percent increase to the supplemental tuition costs that out-of-state and international students pay; with this 3.5 percent increase, the additional fees that out-of-state students pay would rise from $28,014 to $28,992. The $978 increase in supplemental fees for out-of-state students would bring their tuition from $40,644 to $41,622, representing a 2.4 percent increase overall in their total tuition fees. The board was expected to meet on January 24 to confirm the changes.

UC Davis students began protesting the tuition hikes on January 23, having learned of them just days before the Board was to vote. Students had previously protested rising tuition costs in 2009 and 2011, and in the latter instance photos of campus police using pepper spray on student demonstrators went viral.

On January 23, approximately 50 protesters assembled outside the Memorial Union before marching with signs to Mrak Hall, the primary location of the UC Davis administration, reported The Davis Vanguard. Students occupied the first-floor lobby of Mrak for three days and two nights, according to The Sacramento Bee. SDS at Davis, the organization that spearheaded the protest, had apparently been planning the demonstration for several days. In a January 19 Facebook post, it wrote, “Students cannot take another tuition hike. We are sitting in on Mrak Hall.”

Only six of the student protesters maintained the sit-in overnight. Administrators collected student identification numbers from them and notified them they were violating UC Davis policy by occupying a university building after regular business hours, said Zachary Markham, one of the six. They were told they would face disciplinary proceedings for their actions.

The university emphasized that the students were not being disciplined for their participation in protests, but rather for their violation of the university policy about after-hours occupation of a campus building. UC Davis’ student expression guide notes that students “may not engage in an occupation/sit-in of an office or other non-public space in a university building in violation of the university’s time, place and manner regulations. If you do, you may be subject to student disciplinary action or arrest for trespassing.”

Students argued the disciplinary hearings levied against the six protesters represented a selective enforcement of the student expression policy. In spring 2016, some two dozen students had led a five-week sit-in outside of then-Chancellor Katehi’s office in Mrak Hall. Protesters were concerned that Katehi’s positions on multiple corporate boards created a conflict of interest for her. Katehi held seats on the boards of both textbook publisher John Wiley & Sons and for-profit educational company DeVry Education Group, which faced a 2016 suit from the Federal Trade Commission for its exaggerated claims about alumni employment rates and income prospects.

During the 2016 protest, students took shifts occupying the fifth-floor lobby outside of Katehi’s office. The demonstrators received warnings, including a formal letter threatening disciplinary action. However, they were not disciplined and were even allowed to store food in a staff refrigerator during their protest. The lengthy sit-in preceded Katehi’s August 2016 resignation.

That protest and Katehi’s consequent resignation drew national media attention. Some speculated that this spotlight led the administration to show leniency toward that group of student protesters.

“An administrative response during such a high-profile case could cause irreparable damage to the university’s image if the public viewed it in a negative light,” wrote the editorial board of The California Aggie, UC Davis’ student newspaper, in an April 2018 editorial. “Now, when faced with a protest that hasn’t had as much media attention, the administration has begun to enforce the campus policies it overlooked during 2016.”

Outcome

Students for a Democratic Society hold a public meeting with UC Davis chancellor

In the days after the protest, SDS at Davis held a public meeting with Chancellor May and other campus administrators. In this first of a series of meetings, SDS discussed the proposed tuition increases, in addition to housing and food insecurity, issues with campus police, and other tenets of its advocacy. Subsequent meetings shifted away from discussion of the protest, focusing especially on the alleged militarization of the UC Davis campus police instead, reported the Aggie.

UC Regents indefinitely delay vote to confirm in-state tuition hikes

In the wake of the protest at Davis, the UC Board of Regents announced on January 24 that it would delay its vote on the proposed increase of baseline tuition until May. However, on March 15, the board approved the 3.5 percent increase on the supplemental tuition fees that out-of-state and international students pay. Then, in April 2018, the board delayed the vote on baseline tuition indefinitely, in hopes that the state legislature would provide greater funding to the UC system, which would render the tuition increase on in-state students unnecessary. As a result, out-of-of state and international students in the UC system experienced a $978 increase in their tuition; in-state students have not yet faced a tuition increase this year.

Six students who occupied Mrak Hall overnight face censure and probation

In April 2018, the six student protesters who occupied the building overnight faced a public disciplinary hearing, led by the Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs. It included members of the Campus Judicial Board, a body of students appointed by the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs to handle cases of suspected student misconduct. On April 26, the undergraduate student senate passed a resolution condemning the charges against the six student protesters.

According to several of the student protesters who faced the hearing, all six were found guilty of violating university policy. Several of the students reported being placed on disciplinary probation and now have disciplinary records with the university. The terms of probation can include restrictions on students’ privileges and eligibility for activities. Violation of the probationary terms or other misconduct during probation can lead to more serious consequences, including suspension or dismissal.

The disciplinary measures can also limit eligibility for on-campus employment, and at least one student claimed to have lost on-campus job opportunities because of the charges.

External References

UC Davis student sit-in comes to quiet end, The Sacramento Bee

FTC Brings Enforcement Action Against DeVry University

UC and CSU prepare for another year of tuition hikes, The Sacramento Bee

Students Protest Proposed Tuition Hike by UC, The Davis Vanguard

UC Davis Student Expression Guide

UC Davis Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs

UC Davis allowed takeover for weeks in 2016. Students now face discipline after 3 days, The Sacramento Bee

Tuition hike delayed as UC takes up budget fight at Capitol, The Sacramento Bee

Student protesters deserve genuine university support, The California Aggie

UC Davis Administration Allegedly Selectively Suppresses Freedom of Speech, The Davis Vanguard

Students for a Democratic Society meets with chancellor to address food, housing insecurity, budget mismanagement, tuition hike. The California Aggie

UC Regents approve nonresident tuition hike, The California Aggie

At third meeting between students and administration, students discuss solutions to UCPD militarization, racialized targeting, The California Aggie

Prepared by Maya Gandhi ’20

Uploaded June 6, 2018

 

Free Speech on Campus graphic

Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government disinvites Chelsea Manning from visiting fellowship – September 14, 2017

Cambridge, MA

After key figures in the United States government publicly criticized Chelsea Manning’s invitation to be a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government (KSG), the offer was rescinded. She had previously served seven years in a military prison for illegally providing national security-related government documents to WikiLeaks before having her sentence commuted by President Barack Obama.

Key Players

Chelsea Manning is a former private first class in the U.S. Army. She was arrested and imprisoned in 2010 after WikiLeaks published confidential documents she had disclosed to the site. She was charged on 22 counts relating to the unauthorized possession and distribution of more than 720,000 confidential military and diplomatic documents. On July 20, 2013, she was convicted in a court-martial on all but one of the original charges, or slightly altered versions of them: aiding the enemy, which could have resulted in a death sentence. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison. In court, Manning defended her actions by saying she had wanted to start a debate about U.S. foreign policy, reported the BBC. She explained at a sentencing hearing that she had believed she could “change the world for the better.” While in prison, Manning, a transgender woman originally named Bradley, reportedly tried to take her own life twice and went on a hunger strike in 2016 until the Army agreed to pay for her gender reassignment surgery. In November 2016, Obama commuted her sentence, resulting in her release the following May after serving seven years in prison. A White House spokesperson said this was to make Manning’s sentence comparable to the ones handed down to other government “whistleblowers.”

Douglas W. Elmendorf is dean of the KSG at Harvard. He informed Manning on the phone that she was no longer welcome as a visiting fellow, but that she was still eligible to speak at the university. Elmendorf publicly called the decision to offer Manning a fellowship a “mistake.”

Further Details

The visiting fellows program is sponsored by the KSG’s Institute of Politics (IOP), and those selected to receive fellowships attend a number of campus events and engagements where they interact with the student community. Bill Delahunt, a former Massachusetts Democratic congressman who was then acting director of the IOP, said the program seeks to broaden “the range and depth of opportunity for students to hear from and engage with experts, leaders and policy-shapers” and welcomes a “breadth of thought-provoking viewpoints on race, gender, politics and the media,” reported The New York Times. Manning was to be part of a class that included Sean Spicer, former press secretary for the Trump administration, and Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign manager, among others. Also included in that class of fellows were MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.

Michael Morell, former deputy director of the CIA, resigned as a non-resident senior fellow over Manning’s initial invitation to become an IOP visiting fellow. NPR reported that he said he could not be part of an institution that “honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information.” Then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo followed suit by canceling his own planned appearance at the Kennedy School. He claimed that “Harvard’s actions implicitly tell its students that you too can be a fellow at Harvard and a felon under United States law,” and called Manning an “American traitor,” reported The Washington Post.

The Times reported that Elmendorf called Manning to explain the disinvitation, which occurred less than two days after the initial offer. He told her she was still invited to spend a day speaking to students at the Kennedy School, but that the school was concerned that the title of visiting fellow would wrongly imply its endorsement of her actions. The call lasted about 10 minutes, and Manning’s team left the call “stunned and insulted,” according to the Times. Manning tweeted her refusal to speak at Harvard, and wrote that she was “honored to be 1st disinvited trans woman visiting @harvard fellow.” She continued in a separate tweet, “so @harvard says @seanspicer & @Clewandowski [former Trump campaign spokesman Corey Lewandowski] bring ‘something to the table and add something to the conversation’ and not me.”

After withdrawing Manning’s fellowship, Elmendorf released a statement explaining the decision and repeating that Manning was still welcome “to meet with students and others who are interested in talking with her, and then to give remarks in the [John F. Kennedy Jr.] Forum where the audience would have ample opportunity—as with all of our speakers—to ask hard questions and challenge what she has said and done.” He later added, “We did not intend to honor her in any way or to endorse any of her words or deeds, as we do not honor or endorse any Fellow.” Elmendorf proceeded to describe the invitation as a “mistake” and admitted that his own assessment of the matter had been wrong. “I see more clearly now that many people view a Visiting Fellow title as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations,” he wrote.

Outcome

Harvard students and alumni criticize disinvitation

A Harvard Crimson op-ed written shortly after the announcement of Manning’s disinvitation was signed by 159 faculty members. It criticized the university for reacting to a “climate of anxiety and intimidation,” and decried the pressure from Morrell and Pompeo as “overt intimidation by the federal government.” In conclusion, the op-ed requested that Harvard do three things: add “criminal history” to its existing non-discrimination policies; support faculty interest in prison education; and invite Chelsea Manning “to a public forum to discuss her work and advocacy for LGBTQ rights.”

A petition titled “Tell the Harvard Kennedy School: Revoking Chelsea Manning’s Fellowship is Disgraceful” also circulated online, garnering more than 16,000 signatures. Another petition with more than 2,000 student and alumni signatures called on Harvard to apply the same level of scrutiny to Spicer and Lewandowski and to disinvite them as well.

External References

Chelsea Manning: Wikileaks Source and her turbulent life, BBC

Sean Spicer and Chelsea Manning join Harvard as visiting fellows, The New York Times

Harvard withdraws fellowship offer to Chelsea Manning, NPR

Harvard dean rescinds Chelsea Manning’s visiting fellow invitation, calling it a ‘mistake,’ The Washington Post

Statement from Dean Elmendorf regarding the invitation to Chelsea Manning to be a Visiting Fellow

Harvard disinvites Chelsea Manning, and the feeling is mutual, the New York Times

We are educators, not prosecutors, The Harvard Crimson

How the decision to offer—and then revoke—Chelsea Manning’s fellowship blew up on Harvard, Boston.com

Incidents at Harvard and Catholic Universities challenge the idea that liberals are the only ones preventing ideas from being voiced on campus, Inside Higher Ed

Obama commutes Chelsea Manning’s Sentence, Politico

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

Uploaded May 29, 2018

 

Free Speech on Campus graphic

Pro-Palestinian group interrupts Israeli panel discussion at UC Irvine – May 3, 2018

Irvine, CA

The College Republicans at University of California (UC), Irvine hosted a panel featuring five reservists from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on May 3, 2018. Pro-Palestine demonstrators interrupted the question-and-answer session, holding signs and chanting until they were escorted from the room by campus police. They continued to chant outside for the remainder of the event, at times disrupting the speakers.

Key Players

Reservists on Duty is an organization that brings IDF reservists to college campuses in the United States to talk about their experiences. Its website says the organization aims to counteract the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and the “new forms of anti-Semitism erupting on college campuses across America.” The group sent five reservists to speak at UC Irvine in collaboration with the local College Republicans chapter.

National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) is an organization that arranges events and actions at universities across the US to promote the rights of Palestinians, whom it describes as living under Israeli occupation and colonialism. In September 2017, the NSJP chapter at UC Irvine began a two-year probation period after interrupting an event featuring Reservists on Duty in May 2017. Members of the Irvine NSJP had also disrupted a similar event in May 2016. In a statement to The Jerusalem Post, the university said it did not think the individuals who interrupted the May 2018 panel discussion were UC Irvine students. NSJP members would have risked incurring further sanctions from the university if they had participated in another disruption during the probation period, UCI spokesperson Tom Vasich told The Washington Free Beacon. “Any further violations of university policy may result in suspension or a revocation of [NSJP’s] status,” he said.

Further Details

On May 3, 2018, the UC Irvine College Republicans (CRUCI) hosted five people from the Israeli military, members of Reservists on Duty, for a panel discussion during its weekly meeting. After introducing the guests, a member of CRUCI explained the rules of the event: “When I select you during the question and answer period, you can talk; if you haven’t been selected, you can’t talk. If you violate those rules, you will be removed,” according to a livestream of the event on CRUCI’s Facebook page.

Early in the question-and-answer period—about 40 minutes into the meeting—approximately seven people filed into the room and were seated. According to FIRE, one of them said, “You guys talking about how it’s cool to shoot the kids at the Gaza border?” The CRUCI moderator responded, “Please, no talking out of line, sir,” but the protesters began to chant, repeating phrases like, “IDF what do you say, how many kids have you killed today?” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” and “All the walls have got to go, from Palestine to Mexico!” The demonstrators displayed Palestinian flags, wore keffiyehs, or Bedouin Arab kerchiefs, on their heads, held signs that read “IDF not welcome,” and used a bullhorn to amplify their shouts. After chanting for approximately five minutes, the protesters left the room, accompanied by UC Irvine campus police. During the interruption, the reservists on the panel had lined up silently in front of their table holding an Israeli flag. One of them also held a sign that read, “Do you want to talk or do you want to shout?”

The protesters continued to chant outside of the event room, at times drowning out the panelists. The Reservists on Duty members attempted to speak louder in order to continue the event, and had to repeat themselves at times to make themselves heard. Campus police informed the event’s attendees that if they felt unsafe, there were escorts available to help them leave after the meeting was over. Kayla Dolin, who spoke on the panel and is the volunteer coordinator for Reservists on Duty, explained to Ynet News that she and the other panelists needed an escort of 20 campus police officers to protect them as they left the event. Dolin also told Jerusalem Post that she had been called a “Christ-killer” and had been told as she departed that she should get out of America. She shared a video with Jerusalem Post that confirmed her account of the encounter, although a man who appeared in it did not seem to be one of the protesters who initially interrupted the discussion in the room.

Outcome

UC Irvine, unable to determine whether protesters were students, declines to pursue disciplinary action

Because the members of UC Irvine’s NSJP chapter were currently serving out a probation period after interrupting a Reservists on Duty event the previous May, the school’s administration said it did not believe the pro-Palestine protesters at the May 2018 event were affiliated with NSJP. According to Jerusalem Post, a UC Irvine spokesperson said, “To our knowledge, the protesters were not UCI students, so there will not be a student conduct review.” UC Irvine has time, place, and manner regulations on Free Speech, which focus on ensuring the safety of its students and the smooth maintenance of university functions. The university also has regulations about the use of amplification, but despite the protesters’ use of a bullhorn, it said no punishment would be pursued, since the group complied when campus police officers requested they leave the building.

External References

IDF @ CRUCI – Israel Palestine Conflict w/ Special Guest: Reservists on Duty, CRUCI’s Facebook page

Pro-Palestinian activists disrupt Israeli panel on US campus, Ynet News

Police Escort Required for Israeli Speakers after US College Protest, The Jerusalem Post

University of California, Irvine Code of Student Conduct

College Republicans event featuring Israeli reservists disrupted at UC Irvine, FIRE

UC Irvine Softens Sanctions on Students for Justice in Palestine, Washington Free Beacon

Prepared by Gustav Honl-Stuenkel ‘20

Uploaded May 29, 2018

Free Speech on Campus graphic

Florida teacher leaves school after details surface about white-nationalist podcast she hosted – April 10, 2018

Crystal River, FL

A Florida middle school teacher came under fire from school administrators and on social media, after a HuffPost investigation revealed she had been hosting a white-nationalist podcast titled “Unapologetic.”

Key Players

Dayanna Volitich is host of the white nationalist podcast “Unapologetic” and, until April 2018, was a social studies teacher at Crystal River Middle School in Crystal River, Florida, a town located approximately 80 miles north of Tampa. She operated under the pseudonym Tianna Dalichov and managed a Twitter account with more than 1,000 followers.

Christopher Mathias, Jenna Amatulli, and Rebecca Klein are the HuffPost journalists who broke the investigation into Volitich. Mathias is a national reporter, Amatulli a trends reporter, and Klein an education reporter.

Further Details

“Unapologetic” premiered as a pilot episode on February 6, 2018, on “Remso Republic,” another podcast hosted by Remso Martinez, an “independent journalist” and “advocate for individual liberty,” according to his SoundCloud account. “Unapologetic” described itself as “a show that jumps into hard and taboo topics combining facts, class, and sass,” and it launched on Apple Podcasts and the popular podcasting platform Stitcher.

In an episode of “Unapologetic” that aired on February 26, 2018, Volitich’s guest — Lana Lokteff, who hosts her own far-right podcast and co-owns with her husband the media outlet Red Ice, which was classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — opposed the notion that “a kid from Nigeria and a kid who came from Sweden are supposed to learn exactly the same” and “have the same IQ.” Volitich herself went on to assert that some races are more intelligent than others. This theory, known as social Darwinism, has long been discredited, but has often been used to justify racism. In the same episode, Volitich confessed to lying to her own school’s principal after parents complained that she was injecting political bias into her lessons. Volitich agreed with Lokteff’s suggestion that white supremacists need to infiltrate public schools as teachers, saying, “I’m absolutely one of them.”

Volitich also espoused Islamophobic sentiments in her podcast. The summary of the episode, titled “Growth of Islam,” describes the religion as an “ideology hell-bent on destroying Western culture.” She discussed a 2018 Pew Research Center study projecting that Muslims will replace Jews as the country’s second-largest religious group after Christians by 2040. Volitich said, “it’s just so perplexing watching the world’s strange embracing of Islam while still stubbornly denying the reality of that ideology.”

The podcast host also often expressed seemingly racist and Islamophobic views on Twitter. In October 2017, the social media platform suspended her account after she suggested that terror attacks would continue unless Muslims are “eradicate[d] … from the face of the earth.” After her account was reinstated, Volitich—as Dalichov—wrote, “Apologize for my absence. Twitter confined me in Twitter jail for the second time this week for educating people on the horrors of Islam.” In other tweets, she asserted that “systemic racism and white privilege aren’t real” and complained about having to read an education training textbook on “confronting racism in the classroom.” She also tweeted, “It isn’t supremacist or hateful to prefer your own people over others.”

The HuffPost investigation, published on March 3, 2018, connected the online Tiana Dalichov pseudonym with Volitich, after comparing details like age and place of residence. Dalichov had also mentioned starting work at a middle school in 2016, which the Citrus County School District confirmed was when Volitich began working at Crystal River. The reporters were also able to match Dalichov’s Twitter photo to the one that appeared on her middle school’s public website. Finally, as HuffPost pointed out, the names Tiana Dalichov and Dayanna Volitich are near anagrams of each other.

Outcome

School district investigation opened, Volitich removed from classroom

Following the HuffPost inquiry, the Citrus County School District opened its own investigation into Volitich, saying that she “does not speak on behalf of the Citrus County School District” and that her views are “really not in line with how our district operates.” On March 4, 2018, the day after the revelations in HuffPost, the school district announced it would remove Volitich from the classroom in accordance with the human resources investigation. The statement called the podcast “concerning.”

According to the Citrus County Chronicle, the investigative file revealed that school board officials had found probable cause to discipline Volitich, but not for her speech. Instead, the investigation, which was made public April 20, focused on whether Volitich had violated “professional practices by being deceptive in changing her teaching practices when administration enters her classroom and by encouraging her students to go along with the deception.” However, interviews with students revealed that Volitich had discussed her political views, with one student remarking that the teacher had said the Ku Klux Klan was “a good thing,” that immigration should be shut down, and that schools should reinstate segregation. Another student recalled a lesson in which Volitich used a student of color to explain slavery.

It is unclear what sanctions Volitich might have faced, given that she resigned before the investigation had concluded. But she may still suffer repercussions for her conduct, as a review of the case is underway, reported the Chronicle.

“Unapologetic” deleted, Volitich resigns

After the school investigation was opened, Dalichov tweeted that she would be “going away for a while” and proceeded to make her Twitter account private, meaning only those she approves may follow it and view her tweets. Her podcast website was subsequently deleted, though some media outlets downloaded episodes and published them online. Soon thereafter, Volitich released a statement through her lawyer, saying that her podcast had employed “political satire and exaggeration.” She denied being a white nationalist or white supremacist.

She submitted her resignation to the Citrus County School District on April 2, 2018, and the school board accepted it eight days later, WTSP reported.

External References

“Exclusive: Florida Public School Teacher Has A White Nationalist Podcast,” HuffPost

“Dayanna Volitich aka Tiana Dalichov: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy

“Florida Teacher Who Hosted Far-Right Podcast Encouraging White Nationalists To Infiltrate Schools Resigns,” Newsweek

“‘Unapologetic’ White Nationalist Podcast Host and Middle School Teacher Resigns,” The Root

“Citrus Co. School District removes teacher over alleged racist podcast,” WTSP.com

“Teacher who ran white supremacist podcast she said was satire submits resignation,” CNN

“School board accepts resignation of Citrus Co. teacher accused of racist podcast,” WTSP.com

“New estimates show U.S. Muslim population continues to grow,” Pew Research Center

Prepared by Jesus Rodriguez ‘19

Uploaded May 21, 2018

 

Free Speech on Campus graphic

High school teacher fired after calling US military “lowest of the low” – January 26, 2018

Pico Rivera, CA

Gregory Salcido, a high school teacher and City Council member in Pico Rivera, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, was fired by his school and asked to resign from the Council after a student recorded him calling people in the military the “lowest of the low.” Salcido has since appealed the El Ranchero School Board’s decision to fire him and has refused to resign from the City Council.

Key Player

Gregory Salcido was a history and government teacher at El Ranchero High School, when he was fired after a student recorded him making disparaging comments about the US military. He has served on the Pico Rivera City Council for 20 years, though he has now been stripped of committee assignments and is currently the subject of a recall effort. He is also a former mayor of the city, serving in that position for three one-year terms in 2002, 2010, and 2015. The Pico Rivera City Council members choose the mayor and mayor pro tempore each year from among their ranks.

Further Details

Salcido was filmed criticizing people in the military after one of his students wore a United States Marines sweatshirt to class on January 26, 2018, reported the Whittier Daily News. In the video, the teacher can be heard repeatedly referring to members of the military as “dumb,” in addition to saying that “they’re the frickin’ lowest of the low” who “have no other options.” His rant included expletives and racial stereotypes, according to The Washington Post. He said the military was losing to “dudes wearing freaking robes and chanclas [flip-flops] in Iraq and Afghanistan … The data is in, we don’t have a good military … We couldn’t beat the Vietnamese. They’re a bunch of people this freaking big throwing rice.” The Post reported that Salcido said he and his family received death threats after the video circulated in January. The student who made the video and wore the sweatshirt that prompted Salcido’s remarks is Victor Quinonez, who has largely stayed out of the public spotlight. CBS Los Angeles said that his attorney urged the community to let Salcido have due process.

CBS reported that after the video surfaced and circulated on Facebook, protesters challenged Salcido at a February 13 city council meeting and called on him to resign. Many of the protesters were veterans or had family in the military. During the meeting, Salcido attempted to explain why he had made the comments in question, saying that his ultimate goal was to get his students to go to college, and saying that he doesn’t “want [his students] to work at a fast food restaurant either.” The council passed a resolution stripping Salcido of his committee assignments, and also called on him to resign. Salcido voted against the resolution, and indicated that he had no intention of resigning.

The Daily News reported that the El Ranchero Unified School Board voted in a closed session to fire Salcido during a March 20 board meeting, after hearing public comment from resident John Albitre and Pico Rivera City Councilman Bob Archuleta. Albitre reportedly said that he would also try to get Salcido stripped of his teaching credentials.

The school’s superintendent said that the district had done “a thorough investigation that covered many, many areas” before deciding to fire Salcido. The school board released the findings of its investigation, revealing that Salcido had been disciplined before for using corporal punishment, had kept and deleted pornographic images from his work computer, and had faced repeated accusations of bullying and threatening his students.

Outcome

Salcido appeals school board decision to fire him from teaching position at El Ranchero High School

Salcido has entered into what the Daily News described as a “quasi-judicial” process to appeal his March 20 firing by the El Ranchero school board. Throughout the appeals process, he will remain on unpaid leave with the district.

Recall effort underway to remove Salcido from Office

Raul Elias, a teacher at El Ranchero High School, secured approval from the city clerk’s office to begin a petition to recall Salcido from his position on the City Council, reported the Daily News. The petition requires the signatures of 20 percent of El Ranchero’s voters, 6,386 names in total, by August 21, 2018. If Elias successfully gathers enough signatures in the allotted time, and if the city clerk’s office can verify those signatures, the clerk will go to the Council to set up a recall election. On the same ballot, voters can choose whether or not to recall Salcido, and, if they do recall him, select his replacement from a list of candidates. If voters choose to recall Salcido and no other candidate is on the ballot, the City Council can appoint someone to serve out the remaining two years of his term.

External References

Pico Rivera councilman and El Rancho High teacher Gregory Salcido caught on video degrading military, Whittier Daily News

Video: El Rancho Unified fires Gregory Salcido, teacher under fire for in-class anti-military rant, Whittier Daily News

Fired teacher Gregory Salcido, heard disparaging military, has appealed El Rancho Unified’s decision, Whittier Daily News

With the details of the investigation of Pico Rivera teacher Gregory Salcido now divulged, what does it mean for his appeal?, Whittier Daily News

Anti-military teacher Gregory Salcido refusing to quit post as city councilman in L.A. suburb of Pico Rivera, CBS News

Councilman Who Made Anti-Military Remarks Refuses Calls To Resign, CBS Los Angeles

Recall attempt is on: Supporters cleared to collect signatures against Pico Rivera Councilman Gregory Salcido, Whittier Daily News

California teacher fired after calling U.S. troops ‘the lowest of our low,’ The Washington Post

Prepared by Gustav Honl-Stuenkel ‘20

Uploaded May 21, 2018