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Students protest suspension of teacher who sparked ‘American Dirt’ backlash

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Students protested Monday in support of teacher Myriam Gurba, who was recently placed on paid administrative leave.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

A group of students protested Monday at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in support of teacher Myriam Gurba, who was recently placed on administrative leave and escorted from the school.

In recent months, Gurba, the author of “Mean,” a memoir of her youth as a queer, mixed-race Chicana, sparked the backlash over the bestselling novel “American Dirt” when she disclosed that a magazine had rejected her scathing review of Jeanine Cummins’ thriller-romance novel, one that she and others have sharply criticized as depicting harmful images of Mexican life.

Last week, Gurba disclosed that she had been placed on administrative leave after she voiced support for students on Twitter who had alleged verbal and physical abuse at the hands of another teacher. That teacher, Libby Huff, is on leave from the district. Long Beach police are investigating the allegations.

Gurba, who said she is an AP psychology teacher, additionally raised unconfirmed allegations of wrongdoing against another teacher at a different school.

According to Gurba, she was told to leave the school Friday because her social media was “disruptive to the school.”

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The school district previously confirmed her suspension.

“Our school district placed Poly High School teacher Myriam Gurba on paid administrative leave,” Chris Eftychiou, a spokesman for the Long Beach Unified School District, said in an email. “The school district is not at liberty to provide further details because of confidentiality rules affecting personnel matters.”

On Twitter, Gurba said the school administration had “censored” the student protest by drowning the crowds out with music.

The school district referred to the demonstration as a 15-minute rally during nutrition period when students were already out of class.

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“About 60 students were on or near the rally stage in support of teacher Myriam Gurba, who was placed on paid administrative leave on Friday,” Eftychiou said.

A video posted by a student showed others holding signs that read “Gurba,” “We believe you” and “I’m With Her.”

“A group of fellow students and I started a protest at school because we need our voices to be heard. We will not be silenced any longer!” a student identified on Twitter as Jazzy Jukes posted.

Activist Shaun King described the demonstration as a student walk-out and posted a separate video on Twitter of crowd of students gathered outside.

Times staff writer Daniel Hernandez contributed to this report.


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