The teacher accused of calling a student "Jew boy,'' and mocking another student's stutter, will receive individualized, district-funded sensitivity training--a decision that allows her to keep her job for now-- but that several parents feel is too easy going.
In the Nov. 17 memorandum, obtained by Patch and viewable to the right, Assistant Superintendent Patricia Hager confirmed that Leko "made inappropriate comments containing gender and ethnic bias during exchanges of banter with students in an attempt to develop a rapport with students during class time.''
The last paragraph of the memo reads, "appropriate Board action may be considered'' in the future, though it does not state what that action may be.
Parent Debra Archuleta, whose daughter complained last February to a high school counselor that Leko used racial and ethnic slurs in an honors geometry class, as well as made fun of a student with a speech impediment, said Friday she was disappointed with the investigation and subsequent outcome.
"I'm not Jewish and am offended that 'Jew boy' could be banter to establish rapport with students in a classroom. I find that appalling,'' she said.
Though Archuleta and her daughter complained to school administration in February, officials did not formally follow up with them. It was outgoing school board member Cindy Wilcox' public complaint filed in June - which came to light in October - that appeared to kick the process into gear. A process that many parents believe to be broken, as they told the LCUSD governing board Tuesday night.
Emails and phone calls to Leko and Superintendent Wendy Sinnette were not immediately returned Friday. An email to Hager also was not immediately returned.
In the district memo, Hager wrote that after an extensive investigation into several points made in the public complaint, she found:
• Ms. Leko was inconsistent in her enforcement of the school's absence/make-up policy.
• Leko will discontinue the waiver regarding tests in order to more effectively meet district expectations
• Ms. Leko did not intentionally violate the Individualized Education Plan of a 5th period Geometry Honors student regarding seat assignment.
• Ms. Leko made inappropriate comments containing gender and ethnic bias during exchanges of banter with students in an attempt to develop a rapport with students during class time. Board Policy 5137 addresses the importance of a positive school climate; Education Code 22O Article 3 prohibits discrimination; and Education Code 233.5 addresses hate crime prevention.
"This is Not a Punishment''
Parent Amy Bernhard said Friday she was outraged at the outcome.
"Since when is it 'banter' when a teacher makes fun of a student’s stutter, tells an Armenian student to 'get in your black BMW and go back to Glendale,' and to call a student 'Jew boy'? It sounds to me like a bully on the schoolyard, making fun of an individual while everyone gathers around to laugh and make the target feel marginalized.
"However, in this instance, it was the adult, the person of authority in the room, the person who has control over the students’ grades,'' Bernhard said.
Wilcox, who filed the June complaint against Leko as a member of the public, not a school board member, said Friday that she, too, is furious.
"I want her out of the classroom. This is not a punishment. This is a decision that says Leko is going to stay in class,'' Wilcox said, noting that about five years ago Leko as well as the rest of district faculty received sensitivity training led by the Anti Defamation League.
Then, in 2009, parent Hillary Werhane complained to administration that Leko used profanity with her students, calling them "s--theads'' and saying they could all "go to hell.''
Wilcox said Leko's alleged behavior demonstrates that she cannot sustain improvement. If the district is going to keep Leko in class, Wilcox said, then she should be watched at all times.
"Fully supervise her or dismiss her – nothing in between is acceptable to the community,'' Wilcox said.
Many members of the community turned out Tuesday for the monthly board meeting. Though much of the audience addressed the board on the issue of summer school credits, a number of parents complained that the process for reporting and investigating alleged wrongdoing by a teacher needs to be changed.
Of the Leko comments, parent Belinda Randolph told the board, "The adults failed to protect the students. The process is broken. The school board and the superintendent should work to fix the process.''
How do you begin to fix the process?
You get it on the governing board's agenda, Wilcox said. She will submit to board president Susan Boyd that an item be placed on an agenda in an upcoming meeting about how to streamline an investigation when a student files a complaint against a teacher.