La Cañada school board votes to dismiss teacher who used ethnic slur in classroom

The La Cañada Unified school board voted unanimously Tuesday to begin dismissal proceedings against high school math teacher Gabrielle Leko, following complaints that she made derogatory ethnic slurs in her classroom.

The action is effective starting Feb. 27, but board president Scott Tracy said a settlement could happen before that time.

“Until that time, the board will continue to peruse all options, including a settlement that would result in the employee’s separation from the district at the end of the current academic year,” he said.

The board announced the 5-0 decision at the start their regular meeting after returning from a closed session. It marked the fourth time the board had met behind closed doors to discuss the complaints alleged against Leko.

On Dec. 26, the board met for a special closed-door session and recommended the district counsel reach a settlement with Leko that could lead to her leaving the school district. They also decided to give students the option to leave her class. District Supt. Wendy Sinnette said 15 students in her pre-calculus class and two in her AP Calculus class chose to leave.

The controversy started last June, when then-board member Cindy Wilcox formally filed a complaint against Leko after she received reports that the teacher called a student “Jew boy” and made other offending statements. In the fall, the district placed a substitute teacher in Leko’s classroom so another adult was present.

Wilcox said Tuesday night she was happy with the direction the board was taking the case, but it was “appalling” that the board had placed an additional teacher in her classroom, calling it “incredibly expensive.”

“We really need to get this resolved,” she said. “It’s time to make a decision.”

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