By Carlos Carrillo and Jennifer Cheung
Environmental science teacher David Whitman has recently filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) in which he alleges that he was a victim of sex-gender discrimination, harassment, and a hostile work environment when his employer “failed to take immediate action and appropriate corrective action after he complained of harassment.” His action follows the May 26, 2017 vandalism of his classroom door with “a phallus and foul language” which remained on his door until Nov. 14, according to his complaint. The DFEH and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will investigate the complaint.
“My door was never painted until I filed some serious action,” Whitman said. “People are like ‘Get over it, dude. It’s just a d*** on your door.’ I was the one who was bullied as a kid, so it’s just another form of bullying I’ve suffered my whole life.”
Traces of the May vandalism can still be found around campus. Words and images from the graffiti have not been fully erased; in some cases, sentences and pictures are still comprehensible from the remaining messages.
Furthermore, biology teacher Robert Johnson is circulating a teachers’ petition to the Alhambra Unified School District (AUSD) to demand the district address their concerns. The petition questions the district’s timing in responding to last May’s events, the district’s lack of public support for the teachers, and the district’s lack of “a public announcement of condemnation” of the students involved; it also demands a written response to these questions at the earliest possible date.
“I’m not interested in the punishment [of the students], I’m interested in the condemnation of the behavior,” Johnson said. “There have been no statements in support of the teachers; nobody has said that what was done was wrong.”
Both the formal complaint and petition emerged after a staff-only vandalism update meeting held by the district on Nov. 15. In the meeting, AUSD explained its handling of the vandalism incident, saying that communication between the district and the teachers should have been better, attendees said. AUSD also explained their decision of not prosecuting the vandals, saying that they preferred to handle the matter internally rather than send students through the school-to-prison pipeline. The students were instead prohibited from walking at graduation but still received their diplomas because they met high school graduation requirements. AUSD also explained that, under California Education Code, vandalism is considered a “discretionary activity,” meaning that the school district is obligated to pursue non-legal forms of punishment before attempting to prosecute.
Some teachers wanted to know the identity of the vandals due to present safety concerns, but according to administration, this information could not be shared legally. The Matador received a video of the meeting from Whitman and confirmed the attendees’ accounts. In addition, The Matador was not able to reach administration for comments by press time.
Many teachers, including Whitman and Johnson, were left unsatisfied with what was said in the meeting.
“The meeting provided some facts, but the questions we really wanted answers to, the questions posed in the petition, were left unanswered,” Johnson said.
Whitman did, however, file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in order to find out more about the vandalism circumstances. According to documents provided by AUSD, the cost of repairing the vandalism, which included replacing a broken window, erasing graffiti, and paying for labor, was approximately $2380.