A Pico Rivera teacher and councilman is under investigation by the school board after the release of recordings in which he disparaged members of the military.
The remarks by Councilman Gregory Salcido, a teacher at El Rancho High School, have triggered a backlash in a community that local leaders say has strong ties to the armed forces.
"This is not something that we are taking lightly," said Pico Rivera school board President Aurora R. Villon. "I cannot discuss it because it is a personnel matter, other than we are conducting a full-blown investigation. We are moving very diligently."
In one of the video recordings posted on social media, a man whose voice was identified as Salcido's tells a classroom that members of the military were "not talented people."
"We've got a bunch of dumb [expletive] over there," Salcido says in the recording. "Think about the people who you know who are over there – your freaking stupid Uncle Louie or whatever – they're dumb [expletive]. 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."
The diatribe appears to have been in reaction to a student wearing a Marines shirt or sweatshirt.
"You better not freaking go," Salcido says in one recording. "Don't wear that in here."
Salcido, 49, was in New York with his family over the weekend and was scheduled to meet with colleagues and city staff in Washington D.C., to lobby for funds to help repair local dams.
After the news broke, Salcido said he and his wife "deemed it appropriate to head home under the circumstances."
"Because of the many vulgar and violent threats against my family I do not have any comment on the situation at this time," Salcido said in an email to The Times.
Pico Rivera Councilman Bob J. Archuleta, who was appointed to West Point's Board of Visitors under President Obama, expressed dismay at the remarks.
"I am appalled that someone who is educating our children in the classroom can demean our veterans, our men and women in uniform," said Archuleta, who previously served as a paratrooper and whose two sons graduated from West Point military academy.
The videos of Salcido went viral after they were posted on Twitter and Facebook by a woman identifying herself as a friend of the student's mother. The videos appear to have been recorded in a classroom by someone wearing a Marines sweatshirt. Since Friday afternoon, the Facebook post has garnered more than 62,000 shares and 16,000 comments.
While presenting his opinion on the quality of the military, Salcido also invoked what appeared to be stereotypes in reference to people in the Middle East and Asia.
"We haven't been able to beat these guys wearing freaking robes and chanclas [flip-flops] for 15 years," he said. "We couldn't beat the Vietnamese – they're a bunch of people this freaking big throwing rice at us."
Villon said Salcido's comments were out of step with the school district's values, pointing out that Pico Rivera was the first school district in California to establish an ethnic studies requirement.
Villon, who said her husband was a military man, said that Salcido's comments about the armed forces were all the more jarring in a community such as Pico Rivera, which a CNN documentary once dubbed the "Latino Mayberry" in reference to the small-town setting of the 1960s sitcom "The Andy Griffith Show."
"It's so traditional and so rooted in strong family values," Villon said. Pico Rivera is 91.2% Hispanic or Latino, according to 2010 U.S. census data.
"I was extremely surprised and shocked by the comments," Villon added. "I was dumbfounded. I couldn't believe it."
This is not the first public incident for Salcido, a longtime teacher at El Rancho High who also is a graduate.
In 2012, according to local news reports, Salcido was placed on leave for striking a student, an incident he characterized at the time as "grossly exaggerated." In 2010, he was reportedly temporarily suspended after a parent complained that Salcido had threatened his daughter and made inappropriate comments in summer school.