By Carlos Carrillo and Jennifer Cheung
“Where was the outrage for how poorly teachers were treated?”
Science teachers Robert Johnson and David Whitman spoke Tuesday at the Alhambra Unified School District (AUSD) school board meeting, demanding answers regarding the vandalism of San Gabriel High School (SGHS) on May 25. The teachers expressed frustration at the district’s lack of transparency, communication, and concern for those affected.
Whitman’s classroom was heavily graffitied with profanity and an obscene image. “Being targeted like this, I expected some action from the district and from San Gabriel High School,” Whitman said to the school board. “Nothing was told to us until we got back to school [in August], at which time the image of the penis was still on my door. We were completely in the dark; as a matter of fact, we’re still completely in the dark.” The image was covered by a blue patch of paint which does not blend in well with the rest of the blue door.
Whitman was not the only teacher personally attacked during the vandalism. Other teachers also had their doors spray-painted with male appendages, curse words written outside their classrooms, and even a window broken. Even though the event happened around six months ago, Whitman and other teachers claim that the district has done little to maintain accountability.
“No restitution to the district via the ed. code, no charges were ever filed and [the vandals] were never brought to court, period,” Whitman said. “[There was a] complete and utter communication breakdown from my principal, my vice principals, and other people responsible for administration in this school district.”
Johnson, who is also the Alhambra Teachers Association (ATA) SGHS Segment Director, made it clear that he thought the perpetrators should have faced more severe punishment, and that not taking sufficient action set a poor precedent for current students.
“Students need to know that justice was served because they need to see that adults won’t let these types of crimes go unpunished,” Johnson said to the school board. “I would like to know why the students didn’t help to clean up the damage they had done to our school. Why didn’t they apologize to the teachers that they had slandered and demeaned?”
Additionally, Johnson said that some of the statements spray-painted on campus could be deemed as sexual harassment, specifically one that made vulgar remarks about a female teacher’s body.
“I noticed that a former English teacher was mentioned in an unsavory comment that addressed some of her body parts,” Johnson said. “I was disturbed even further because this teacher had come to me to complain that one of her male students was making comments about her body during class. What amazed me was that the graffiti with her name on it contained the exact same words that had been used to degrade her in years past.”
Johnson said teachers need to know how the district handled the situation “to feel secure at their job site and that the district is looking out for their well-being. Teachers need to know that they are being backed up by administration.”
Like Whitman, Johnson stated that the district has released no official information regarding the incident, leaving the student newspaper’s reporting as the “definitive source of information.”
“I was quite surprised and dismayed to receive [The Matador’s] findings before I heard a statement from the administration,” Johnson said. “As result, teachers, students, and community members—there have been inquiries from the local community—have been left with only the information from the student newspaper to draw conclusions on how this issue was handled.”
When Johnson and Whitman concluded their speeches to a solemn and silent school board, board president Jane Anderson quietly said “this will be referenced back to the superintendent”– the sole public board comment made about the situation. During the meeting, however, board members did comment at length about their participation in homecoming activities and the recent lockdowns at Mark Keppel High School.
After the meeting, Anderson expressed disappointment at the news because she had been unaware of the vandalism beforehand. Other board members declined to comment.
The teachers’ speeches resonated with those in the audience, including the ATA president Tammy Scorcia, who agreed that there was “a big gap in communication.”
“Communication has to be number one if we are going to help people feel safe, secure, and happy with things that are going on in the district,” Scorcia said. “I think the information needs to be shared so that everyone can feel comfortable and safe.”
Many teachers in attendance, including history teacher Henry Osborne, felt that AUSD’s inaction could lead to recurrences in the future.
“The first thing teachers want to know is what happened,” Osborne said. “[There] is always a worry that there will be copycats, especially if people see that there weren’t consequences to past actions.”
Both Johnson and Whitman wanted repercussions for the vandals but felt that any action is unlikely to be taken now. In September, Whitman submitted a formal request for information about the vandalism due to be fulfilled by the district on Nov. 25.
“At the end of the day, I want justice, but that’s not going to happen,” Whitman said. “It’s time to move on once we get the information.”
A complete auido recording of the board can be found here.
Science teachers David Whitman and Robert Johnson begin speaking at 20:09 and 23:42, respectively .
Additional reporting by Kevin Contreras, Echo Dieu, Selina Han, Shawn Ho, Kenny Lam, Angela Lu, Eileen Ong, Selina Han, and Vivian Zheng.