Editor’s note: Some of the video embedded in this story contains profanity.
Three videos on social media of Pico Rivera Councilman Gregory Salcido, a teacher at El Rancho High School, making disparaging remarks about the military and berating a student for wearing a sweatshirt with a Marines logo have gone viral and created a backlash.
El Rancho Unified School District officials confirmed Saturday, Jan. 27 that the person speaking is Salcido and that the incident took place on school grounds.
“We acknowledge it is his voice based on the research of the incident so far and knowing it came from one of our classrooms,” district Superintendent Karling Aguilera-Fort said in a phone interview.
A post on Facebook with the three videos was shared more than 23,500 times as of 10 a.m. Saturday. It had nearly 1.5 million views.
Aguilera-Fort said he was alerted on Friday evening to the video where Salcido is heard saying, “They’re the frickin’ lowest of the low,” in reference to military members.
“We have reached out to Mr. Salcido but have not been able to talk to him because he is out of town,” Aguilera-Fort said.
He and Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Mark Matthews are conducting an investigation.
“We cannot expose the disciplinary measures because it is a personnel matter, but there will be disciplinary measures taken,” Aguilera-Fort said.
District officials have not identified the student who made the recording.
“That’s not our priority right now,” he said. “Our first priority is to assure the community that what was said does not reflect the values of the El Rancho community and the El Rancho board.”
Phone calls to Salcido and to Pico Rivera City Manager Rene Bobadilla were not returned.
Salcido did post a statement on Friday to his personal Facebook page, which said, “I don’t think it’s wise for me to make any comments, but I want my friends, family, and students to know we are fine and we respect the rights of free expression for all individuals.”
It was time stamped at 9:41 p.m., New York.
The videos were first posted by Kimberlie Flauto, of Connecticut, who identified herself as a friend of one of the student’s parents. Flauto asked her followers to share and make the videos go viral.
The student, a 17-year-old senior who said he wished to remain anonymous because he doesn’t want any repercussions from friends who support Salcido, said he had no intention of the video being seen by anyone else and is surprised by all the attention.
“It wasn’t meant for anyone else, but my mom shared it with a few friends and now it’s this,” he said in a phone interview Saturday.
He said he made the recording on Jan. 19 during a U.S. history class taught by Salcido.
The young man, whose father and two uncles are Marine veterans who fought in Afghanistan, Desert Storm and Vietnam, said Salcido went too far when he said those in the military were stupid and only joined as a last resort.
“It was so disrespectful to my dad and my uncles and all veterans and those still in the military,” he said.
With students laughing in the background, Salcido is heard profanely questioning military members’ intelligence and continuing, “They’re not high-level thinkers.”
This is not the first time Salcido, 49, has come under scrutiny for behavior in the classroom.
In May 2012, he was put on paid administrative leave after the Sheriff’s Department received a complaint that he struck a student.
In July 2010, a parent complained that Salcido had threatened his daughter, made inappropriate comments to his summer school class about race and insulted other students and parents, which Salcido denied.
He was suspended until the following fall’s first day of class.
Salcido, who was first elected to the City Council in 1999, stands on the dais with his hands at his side and does not recite the pledge of allegiance along with his colleagues during meetings.
The majority of responses on the Pico Rivera Neighborhood Watch page were against what Salcido said in the videos.
Some of the comments to Flauto’s post on Facebook were made by former students, who said they weren’t surprised.
“This guy is a clown at best. I can agree with encouraging education, but not at the expense of our troops,” wrote someone named Quentin Clark. “I know plenty of college graduates who served with me. I know from my experience, I joined up out of patriotism after 9/11. This tool is also very wrong about our military being sub-standard.”
Someone named Jim Brown wrote, “This ‘educator’ is the poster child for ignorance. It’s sad that he preaches of what he obviously knows nothing about first hand. This warps the minds of our youths with false truths. He couldn’t be more wrong if he tried. Shame on you Mr. Salcido … Because of the military, I was able to live in Europe for ten years and obtain two BA degrees, all for free. I guarantee bc of the military, I’ve seen more of the world than this guy.”
A few commenters said he was being honest with his students.
“This teacher is saying something every parent needs to hear!” wrote someone named Omar Grubbs. “Because no parent should want their kid joining the military. There is so much more in life than signing up to slave away for a country that taxes the poor and not the rich.”
Official response also came on Saturday.
Pico Rivera Mayor Gustavo Camacho issued a press release stating in part, “The city council and residents of Pico Rivera are steadfast in the recognition that their (military members’) contributions are respected and that we are grateful for their service.”
Councilman Bob Archuleta, an Army veteran and a Los Angeles County Commissioner of Military Veteran’s Affairs, said in a phone interview that he’s worked with Salcido on the council for the past 10 years and would continue to have a cordial relationship with him.
“However, I want everyone in Pico Rivera and beyond that his comments are not reflective of this City Council and this community,” he said. “They are his and his alone.”
Archuleta, whose two sons graduated from West Point – Brandon, an Army major and Matthew, an Army captain – said he will not ask for a censure because it is an employee matter between Salcido and the school district.
“He is an elected official, and it will be the voters who will take a stand,” Archuleta said.
Source: Whittier Daily News