SGHS journalism advisor put on leave; Students say it is an act of retaliation

Students filled an Alhambra United School District board meeting on Tuesday to speak in defense of San Gabriel High School teacher Jennifer Kim, who’s been put on administrative leave. Kim is an award-winning journalism advisor for The Matador, SGHS’s campus newspaper.
 
Kim, on leave since August 10 pending an investigation, is barred from speaking to current students or entering the campus without an escort. Kim told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that this decision came after an incident in which she encountered new SGHS Principal Debbie Stone at yearbook camp and tried to enforce Education Code 48907, which protects the rights of student publications. Stone has not commented on this situation. Marsha Gilbert, assistant superintendent of human resources, said that the department will not discuss employee matters with the public. 
 
On Tuesday, students asked the board to reinstate Kim, praising her for her instruction and guidance in the classroom. Some voiced their concern of whether the district will hire a qualified teacher in her place. One student claimed that Kim was not given a reason for being put on leave. 
 
“None of The Matador’s upper echelon were informed of her removal or why she was removed,” said Erin Truong, incoming editor-in-chief for The Matador. “Instead, we had to find out from second-hand sources and gossip that Ms. Kim would not be present to advise and assist us in the most crucial part of the year.” 
 
Jennifer Kim in attendance at the school board meeting
In June, a similar scene unfolded as students packed the board room to protest the dismissal of Andrew Nguyen, a popular SGHS English teacher and Debate advisor. Students also alleged that Jim Schofield, then principal of SGHS, had barred The Matador from publishing materials about Nguyen’s dismissal. This prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to threaten a lawsuit against the school district, which they claimed had violated First Amendment rights. The district conducted a private investigation and concluded that Schofield did not intend to censor The Matador. During Tuesdays meeting, several students claimed that the decision to put Kim on leave was an act of retaliation. 
 
"I thought that the district would take time over the summer to clear the air of intimidation, fear and retaliation that seems to have permeated this community," said Simon Yung, a SGHS alum and former copy editor of The Matador. "Unfortunately, as the school year begins, this fog of fear only seems to have thickened."
 
Several speakers at the meeting also talked in support of Nguyen. SGHS Speech and Debate member Eric Thai said that the team, which Nguyen had coached, now lacks a dedicated coach and an adequate classroom to use as practice space. 
 
“When you take two amazing teachers away from the students for no apparent reason and do practically nothing regarding Mr. Schofield who has several accusations against him, we question your reasoning,” said SGHS alum Eric Fung. He also alleged that the district sent police officers to Nguyen’s home and took away student belongings from Kim’s classroom. 
 
A heated exchange occurred towards the end of the public comment period. Board Vice President Pat Rodriguez-Mackintosh was speaking when Kim said that the audience couldn’t hear her. Rodriguez-Mackintosh brought the microphone closer and said, “Students are saying that we didn’t give her a reason. We did. She is supposed to tell you.”
 
“I’m under investigation,” Kim exclaimed.
 
Due to legal reasons, Kim has refrained from commenting on the situation at hand.
 
Earlier this year, Kim was one of 40 teachers who won the First Amendment Challenge sponsored by the American Society of News Editors. The contest awarded educators who teach the First Amendment freedoms. 

5 thoughts on “SGHS journalism advisor put on leave; Students say it is an act of retaliation”

  1. Censorship of student publications has long been an issue at both high school and college/university levels. It’s ironic. Students are supposed to be taught to report the news – without bias – but it appears that the San Gabriel High School (and possibly the entire Alhambra Unified School District)administrators are willingly refusing to let that happen. How can they learn without their outstanding teachers?? Two incidents have occurred within just the past few months. What the administration does not realize is that these actions cast a dark shadow on the whole district. Two popular, award-winning teachers removed from one award-winning high school. Depriving the students of these teachers’ expertise and passion for teaching. If I were a young journalism or debate student at SGHS, I would be very disillusioned. And, if I were part of the AUSD administration, I would be very, very afraid. I hope that the ACLU WILL initiate a lawsuit and that they’ll win it for both the students and their teachers. And, I hope that when SGHS next comes up for a WASC accreditation review, the details of this conflict will be included in the self-study for all to see. THAT would be justice.

  2. Wow, management at the San Gabriel School District are certainly not following Democratic principals with their retaliation actions against some employee. THIS IS NOT THE WAY TO TEACH DEMOCRACY TO STUDENTS, but in fact seems to be a “witch-hunt.”Very sad situation; too much secrecy, specially now that San Gabriel High School was ranked 9th in Newsweek’s high school rankings.

  3. Sounds like the principles are power tripping – just like principles in every district. Do they even really care about the students? Or just enough so that their position, power, and pay is maintained?

    1. I certainly agree with you, but have a suggestion. A principle is something that you believe in; a principal is the head of a school. You need to correct your wording.

  4. Say what??? I escaped from my country because of this censorship shit. Apparently Schofield working with the communist government. Send this bitch back to to Asia. Shiet.

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