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Pico Rivera teacher who bashed military fired by school board, president says

Pico Rivera teacher who bashed military fired by school board, president says
Gregory Salcido, a teacher and city councilman in Pico Rivera, was terminated from his post at El Rancho High School. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

A Pico Rivera teacher whose anti-military rant was caught on video and drew widespread condemnation has been terminated from his post, the school board president said.

El Rancho Unified School District voted unanimously Tuesday evening to fire Gregory Salcido, who taught history at his alma mater El Rancho High School, said Board of Education President Aurora Villon. He has 30 days to appeal the decision.

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Villon said students should feel respected on campus, and in this case, she felt "that was not happening."

"The classroom should never be a place where students feel that they are picked at, bullied, intimidated," she said.

Salcido, who also serves on the Pico Rivera City Council, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

During the Jan. 26 diatribe, Salcido called members of the military the "lowest of our low."

"We've got a bunch of dumb … over there," Salcido says in the recording, using an expletive. "Think about the people who you know who are over there — your freaking stupid Uncle Louie or whatever — they're dumb…. 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."

Salcido's rant appears to have been in reaction to a student wearing a Marines shirt.

The controversy thrust the small, working-class city in southeast Los Angeles County into the national limelight, even catching the attention of White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, a retired Marine general who lost his son in combat. Kelly said Salcido "ought to go to hell."

Villon said the school board received thousands of emails, including from veterans and relatives of veterans from all over the world who were offended by Salcido's remarks. A town hall meeting at the high school's gymnasium about a month ago drew about 500 people, she said.

"His comments do not reflect what we stand for, who we are," Villon said.

At a City Council meeting in February during which his peers called on him to resign, Salcido said that since the videos became public, people have threatened to kill him, rape his wife and leave his son an orphan.

He apologized, but also reiterated, more diplomatically, what he said in the classroom: that he thinks students with lower academic standing typically end up in the military.

"I don't think it's all a revelation to anybody that those who aren't stellar students usually find the military a better option.... That's not a criticism of anybody. Anything I said had nothing to do with their moral character," he said.

He told reporters during a break in the meeting that "this is probably the most exaggerated situation I've ever seen."

"I do believe the military is not the best option for my students," he said. "That does not mean I'm anti-military, because I'm not."

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That night, dozens of people took the lectern to criticize Salcido's remarks, often sharing their own military histories. A couple of speakers came to Salcido's defense.

"You taught me that I could be the best that I could be in school and in life without having to risk my life or to pursue what I thought was my only option," said Jeovany Zavala, a former student. "You taught me more than that and I'd like to thank you. I know I might stand alone in that decision tonight."

Twitter: @AleneTchek

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