Administration put teacher Frank Navarro on “paid administrative leave” on Thursday, Nov. 10. Navarro, who teaches World Studies, Civics/Economics, and Special Education said that his leave was prompted when the parent of a student in Navarro’s fourth period World Studies class sent an email to Associate Superintendent Eric Goddard. According to Navarro, the email said that the student was upset by Navarro’s statements which equated Donald Trump with Adolf Hitler.
Navarro denies making such statements about Trump, as it would have been “sloppy historical thinking.” He met with Goddard and Principal David Grissom, who both decided to place him on paid administrative leave until Wednesday, Nov. 16. According to Navarro, Goddard and Grissom also plan to speak with the student who now wants to withdraw from Navarro’s history class and its upcoming fieldtrip.
Grissom said that he is unable to comment on the situation because he is not at liberty to release information about personnel.
According to Navarro, he wanted to convey facts about the election and show how present day events parallel historical ones. He said that he made connections between Trump and Hitler, but never equated them. As a Mandel Fellow of the U.S. Holocaust Museum who has studied at the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Navarro has spent years analyzing Hitler, and said he feels that his lessons were factually accurate.
“My intention was to connect the history of the 20th century with this ongoing history now. It is consequential. As a fellow, as a writer, I don’t see any other way around it,” Navarro said. “I feel strongly about this: to stand quiet in the face of bigotry and to turn your eyes away from it is to back up the bigotry, and that’s not what I, or any history teacher, should be doing in our work.”
Senior Justin Allen is currently in Navarro’s first period Civics and Economics class. Allen said that Navarro held one-sided class discussions during which students were told to find racist quotes from Donald Trump and read them out loud.
“I do agree with some of [Trump’s] policies, and when I’d try to talk about it, [Navarro] just told me to shut up or said something super rude,” Allen said. “I like to treat people the way I want to be treated, and I would never treat a teacher that way. That’s super disrespectful.”
Navarro denied making such comments.
“I never told a student shut up, never ever uttered that. I have agreed with comments about Trump, especially regarding economics,” Navarro said. “I do not feel bad because it did not happen.”
According to freshman Krish Gujral, Navarro was absent from his fifth period World Studies class, but came in briefly to tell students that he had been put on administrative leave for sharing his opinions on Trump. Navarro said that he did not want the reason for his absence to be a secret.
Gujral has participated in many of Navarro’s election discussions, and said that he didn’t find Navarro’s lessons to be offensive or one-sided.
“It wasn’t really opinion,” Gujral said. “It was pretty factual stuff; I thought it was okay. He told us to compare Trump’s policies with Clinton’s.”
Freshman Kyle Do, who is also in Navarro’s fifth period World Studies class, said that he believes Navarro’s leave was reasonable because Navarro “said a bunch of stuff that Trump supporters would feel offended about,” as his discussions focused on one-sided facts that criticized Trump.
According to Navarro, Grissom sent an email to teachers on Nov. 9 telling them to be neutral when speaking about political issues. However, Navarro said that being neutral would mean ignoring the rhetoric and strategies that Trump used throughout the election.
“He wanted us to be neutral in discussing the election. But neutral means overlooking and not talking about the way Trump talks about Mexican history. Should I not say that?” Navarro said. “Should I not say that Hillary has experience as a senator for eight years, as Secretary of State? I refuse to be intimidated from talking about the facts. I see this as an issue of free speech.”
In the email, Grissom said that he believes neutrality is necessary because the classroom is not a space for teachers to express their political views.
“Please remember that while our classrooms can be a place to dialogue and have conversations regarding our democratic process, we must do so without sharing our personal political beliefs,” Grissom said in the email to staff. “I hope that you are willing to engage your students in conversations regarding the election if you feel it is appropriate, but remain neutral.”
Update Nov. 11 at 7:40 p.m.:
According to an interview with District Superintendent Jeff Harding conducted by Mercury News, Navarro may return by Monday.
“We are interested in getting Frank back in the classroom…We’re just trying to maintain our due diligence,” Harding said in the interview. “We have a heightened emotional environment right now with the election. It’s always a challenge to maintain a line in a classroom.”
Update Nov. 14 at 7:45 a.m.:
At around 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13, Superintendent Jeff Harding informed Navarro that he would be returning to school on Monday.
While Navarro originally said that his leave was due to comparisons between Adolf Hitler and President-elect Donald Trump, Harding later said that Navarro’s paid leave was for a different reason which he is not at liberty to disclose.
“The administrators involved were responding to a specific parent and student complaint of a serious nature,” Harding said in an email on Nov. 13. “It is our duty to investigate such a complaint to ensure the emotional safety of all of our students.”
According to Harding, Navarro was absent during the investigation of the complaint, but will now be reinstated as administration is now “confident that the environment [is]safe for students.”
However, Navarro still maintains that he was told that he was put on paid administrative leave for his comments on Trump and Hitler.
“The assistant superintendent said from the email that…I called Trump Hitler,” Navarro said. “I am mystified [by Harding’s reasons]because those were the only comments made.”
As a result, the headline now says “History teacher Frank Navarro put on paid administrative leave for comments on Trump, Navarro said.”
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