Alhambra Unified School District denies censorship; Students stage protest at board meeting

Students flooded the Alhambra Unified School District board meeting Tuesday for a second time, demanding answers to censorship allegations brought by the American Civil Liberties Union after the firing of a popular teacher. The district did not directly respond to their charges, but a letter dated June 19 reports that an internal investigation concluded that there were no intentional acts of censorship. 
 
The ACLU threatened a lawsuit on June 2, accusing the district of a lack of transparency following the dismissal this spring of Andrew Nguyen, a first-year San Gabriel High School English teacher and debate coach. The Matador, SGHS’s campus newspaper, alleged that Principal Jim Schofield had barred them from publishing stories about Nguyen’s departure. Later, Nguyen said that the district threatened arrest against a group of students who had planned to protest his dismissal. The ACLU demanded that the district conduct an investigation. 
 
In a letter dated June 19, the district said that an investigation found that Schofield had not intended to censor The Matador. “Instead, his intent was to express his concerns regarding the teacher’s right to privacy,” said the district. The letter also said that the administrators had never implied that student protesters would be arrested. 
 
The AUSD added that it will hold “mandatory training” for all staff involved in student publications. Participants will be taught the “specific grounds and procedures that must be followed before student publications can be restricted.”
 
Before this letter was circulated via The Matador, students protested June 23 at the AUSD building prior to a school board meeting. Protesters lined the sidewalk, holding up signs and chanting, “Hey hey, hoo hoo, school board shady, can’t see through!” 
 
The AUSD board room was filled to capacity for the meeting. The majority of the speakers were SGHS students and alumni, and writers for The Matador. Several members of The Matador called for Schofield’s dismissal, saying that he had purposely intimidated students in the past. 
 
Attendees at a June 23 school board meeting | Photo by Tim LocErin Truong, incoming editor-in-chief of The Matador, said that Schofield approached her and another writer last year during class to speak with them about a published story regarding a campus blackout. Truong said that Schofield, claiming that the article was inaccurate, had taken them out of the classroom without speaking first to either The Matador’s advisor or editor-in-chief. Truong said that he “drove her to tears” and lectured her even when she was visibly distressed. 
 
“This was an abuse of power,” said Truong. “If he had an issue with the article, he could have expressed that through other means. He could have contacted our advisor and worked with us to produce another article.”  
 
Other speakers said they were unsatisfied with the response from the school board regarding these issues, and that there was a lack of transparency among the AUSD. Some criticized the district for removing an undated statement published online that responded to the ACLU’s investigation request. Speakers also expressed discontent with the minutes posted for a June 2 school board meeting. They said that the document was oversimplified and did not reflect many of the issues that were brought up that night. 
 
Others reiterated a previous demand that the district should release to the public the reason for Nguyen’s dismissal. They also asked for accessible video recordings of future board meetings, as well as meeting minutes written in various languages to accommodate the surrounding population. 
 
SGHS alum Michael Vuong, who was in attendance at the meeting, said that people could be misconstruing the AUSD’s intentions. “I think there’s a lack of communication, but not necessarily a lack of transparency. Most of the time, personnel issues can’t be discussed openly in public. Students feel there is a misunderstanding because they don’t understand the process,” said Vuong. 
 
In contrast, Kelly Ho, staff writer for The Matador, said that the AUSD “haven’t been reaching out to the community and haven’t taken the first steps to speak to the community and answer their questions and answer them completely.” 
 
“Hopefully the board will have to do something because it looks like they are ignoring the whole community now,” said Simon Hong, a parent of a SGHS student. Hong had come out to support his son, Eric, who spoke before the board.
 
Following the end of public comment, Board President Adele Andrade-Stadler assured attendees that “we are here and we do hear you, and we know that this is democracy in action.”
 
The next AUSD board meeting will take place June 30. The board will convene to approve the upcoming Local Control & Accountability Plan (LCAP). The next regular board meeting will take place on July 14th. 

4 thoughts on “Alhambra Unified School District denies censorship; Students stage protest at board meeting”

  1. San Gabriel is known for cover ups, I witnessed a male weight training teacher punch a girl in the face. Me and the kids who helped her where all put in the office ,forced to talk to a cop,without any phone calls to our parents.All of us who tried to help where sent to Century”The bad kids school”. We also found out that this wasn’t the first time this teacher assaulted a student. San Gabriel only cares about the Asian kids, it discriminated against Mexican and avoids disciplining any dick who has ten year. That girl turned into a drug addict. Im currently studying law and moved far away from this town.Report abuse, and stand firm in your beliefs, never let some ass in control of the school get away with bullshit.

  2. I do not know anything regarding Mr Nguyen’s firing, but according to news release from The Alhambra Source and others, that school principal did indeed censor students from writing/expressing their thoughts on this subject, and according to news sources, he threatened them with arrests if they protested at a graduation ceremony.Now either the news sources were wrong, or completely mis-informed or the principal and the school board are trying to cover their actions/threats.If the news sources were not correct, they (and The Alhambra Source) need to make a public apology to the principal and to the board; but if this information was correct, then the board and Alhambra School management must take steps to discipline the principal because the last time I knew, we are in American, living under the U.S. Constitution which protects FREE SPEECH. Hooray for the ACLU to get involved in this, otherwise nothing would have occurred and school administrators would continue to use censorship with threats of punishment. PLEASE GET THE FACTS STRAIGHT AND REPORT ON THIS ON-GOING ISSUE!!!

  3. Alhambra Citizen

    The district finally admits that Schofield wrongfully prevented the Matador from publishing their article. According to ed code, Schofield cannot prevent the publication of any articles due to privacy concerns. Also, if Schofield claims to truly care about Mr. Andrew Nguyen’s rights, maybe he wouldn’t have dismissed him without a reason. Maybe Schofield would’ve notified Nguyen of his dismissal earlier, not on the last possible date.

    Regarding Vuong’s comment: “Most of the time, personnel issues can’t be discussed openly in public.”
    Nguyen himself was never even privately given a reason for his dismissal. And in light of everything he’s accomplished, this is absurd.

    Continue fighting for justice. We will see what happens at the next AUSD board election. You have allies.

    1. I’m glad to see they have an ally/allies. This is a democracy’s most basic right to inquire and expose a grievance. I’m encouraged to see that the youth of Alhambra “received the memo.” Now it’s time for the rest of the community to support these students, their families and ask relavant questions of our Board of Education and each individual board member who purports to speak all of us.

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