High school government teacher Gregory Salcido made waves last month when he was caught trashing the military in his classroom. Reacting to a student who wore a Marines sweatshirt to class, Salcido said, “They’re not like high-level thinkers, they’re not academic people, they’re not intellectual people; they’re the freaking lowest of our low.” The video went viral and Salcido was placed on administrative leave.
But Salcido also has a second job. He’s a city councilman in Pico Rivera, the same LA suburb where he teaches. Tuesday night, he made his first public appearance since his comments went viral at a city council meeting. The council voted on a resolution asking Salcido to resign, which he has refused to do. He spent an hour listening to nearly 50 critics, many of them veterans. From CBS News:
One speaker said, “Do the right thing. Be a man. Stand up. Apologize. And resign,” the station notes.
“America: Love it or leave it. That’s the bottom line,” said Raul Rodriguez, 76, an Army vet and retired warehouse worker from Apple Valley, who wore a camouflage outfit.
Dennis Jackson, 67, who grew up in Pico Rivera, was one of several who said Salcido was abusing his position as a teacher.
“A classroom is a place of learning, not propaganda,” Jackson said.
None of it seems to have gotten through to Salcido. Instead of a genuine apology, he doubled down on calling people who join the military poor students. From the Washington Post:
“The last two and a half weeks have been … indescribable for me and my family,” he said. “We’ve been inundated with death threats. People have told me they’re going to rape my wife, they’re going to kill me.”
While offering to apologize if he had offended anyone, he stood by his words and tried to say what he really meant.
Salcido said he was a pacifist, “with a capital P.” He remembers, he said, looking at pictures of relatives who had gone to war on his great-grandmother’s wall and wondering “for what.” But he said no one could answer his question.
More to the point, Salcido asked the angry crowd to hear his real “goal” in telling the students that the military was the “lowest of our low.”
“My goal as it relates to my students is to get them to do everything to get through college,” he said. “It’s not just the military. I wouldn’t want them to work at a fast-food restaurant, either.
He added: “I’m talking about their academic standing. I don’t think it’s at all a revelation to anybody that those who aren’t stellar students usually find the military a better option. That’s as plain as that it’s Tuesday night.”
In case it wasn’t clear, serving your country is the equivalent of flipping burgers to Gregory Salcido. Look, I get that teachers have their own opinions about a variety of things and some of that is bound to come up in the classroom. If a veteran becomes a high school teacher and wants to talk about positives aspects of the military during an appropriate lecture, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. Similarly, if a capital P pacifist wants to talk about his pacifism during a lecture on anti-war activism, I think that’s fine.
What’s not okay is what happened here. KTLA 5 reports that the student who was wearing the Marines sweatshirt Salcido objected to is 17-year-old Victor Quiñonez. Why is he wearing a Marines sweatshirt? Because his father is a Marine Corps vet who served in Afghanistan:
Karen Rodriguez, Quiñonez’s mother, told CNN that her son was wearing a Marine Corps sweatshirt that day. When he got up to turn in some work, Salcido asked him to explain why he was planning on joining the military after graduation.
Then he made the comments, and Victor started surreptitiously taping it when he got back to his desk, Rodriguez said…
The voice also tells the student not to join the military and to never wear the sweatshirt again…
Quiñonez’s father is a Marine Corps veteran who fought in Afghanistan, Rodriguez said. And Quiñonez plans to follow in his footsteps.
So he felt discouraged and offended when he heard his teacher speak so negatively of the military, his mother said.
Salcido was way out of line. He singled out a student and made him an object lesson for the class because of his sweatshirt. He dumped all over the boy’s father, implicitly calling him a moron, and then ordered the kid never to wear a Marines sweatshirt to his class again. All of that goes way beyond sharing a personal perspective as part of a lesson plan. This was closer to harassment.
On a personal note, my best friend in high school joined the military after he graduated. He was not the lowest of the low. He dreamed of being an artist, but his parents were immigrants who couldn’t afford to send him to college. He enlisted and came out of the military a few years later with the GI bill to help put him through school. He is now a well-regarded professor at the college he once attended. He teaches art. All of this makes me want to add a very personal and blunt rebuttal to Mr. Salcido, but I’ll refrain because this is a family-friendly news site.
I’m generally not a fan of forcing people out of their jobs over some slight infraction. Personal feelings aside, if it were one incident and Salcido apologized to the student and the family and promised never to do it again, I’d say cut him a break. But his response last night was basically a) make himself the victim and b) double down on calling members of the military losers. If I’m the Pico Rivera school superintendent, I’d be looking at Salcido’s comments at this meeting and wondering how long it will be before he appears in another viral video, mouthing off to another student.