An eighth grade science teacher at Olson Middle School in Bloomington allegedly called a boy “estupido” when he asked questions in class, and threatened him with deportation if he didn't do his homework.
Alexis Gasca, a Bloomington dietary aid, says teacher Greg Gilbert made fun of her son in front of other students at least three times over the past month. She says Gilbert first called him stupid in order to make him stop listening to music in class, again when he asked a question about a lesson. But incidents supposedly occurred during the week of the election. Afterward, Gilbert allegedly joked that the boy would be deported once Donald Trump built the wall.
Alexis’ son was born in Minneapolis.
“Even if he wasn’t, why say something like that to a child, as an educator?” asked Alexis’ sister Stephanie Gasca. “As an adult, you’re entitled to have your own political views and values. But this is the classroom, and he’s the science teacher. It’s not even social studies class. There’s no reason to be talking about political stuff.”
Stephanie heard about what had happened with her nephew last Thursday, and started asking friends on Facebook to call on Superintendent Les Fujitake to investigate Gilbert.
The science teacher did not show up to class on Friday. That afternoon, the Gascas met with Gilbert, Olson Middle School Principal Jeremy Kuhns, and Superintendent Fujitake.
Gilbert apologized to Alexis for calling her son stupid, admitting he didn’t use the best choice of words, that it didn’t come out the way he wanted it to. He said he never called for her son to be deported.
The principal defended Gilbert in the meeting, Stephanie recalls, by describing on Gilbert’s behalf how sorry the teacher must feel, and how much time he’s had to reflect. Gilbert had taught well for many years, Kuhns allegedly told the Gascas.
“The superintendent Les Fujitake was very quiet during the meeting and didn’t seem interested in the conversation,” Stephanie later wrote on Facebook.
Requests for comment were redirected to the school spokesman, Rick Kaufman, who did not deny that Gilbert is under investigation, but would not confirm that Olson Middle School has even received a complaint about him. He said only that that Bloomington is proud of its reputation for being a “safe and caring” school system.
Alexis was told the investigation would take about 10 days. She’s certain that if the school did its due diligence and spoke to witnesses, it would become clear that Gilbert did threaten to deport her son.
In the meantime, Gilbert would be allowed to resume teaching, and her son would be switched to a different science class.
“He’s trying to make it the best he can,” Alexis says of her son. “[Monday] he didn’t know that teacher was going to be back in the class. He sent me a text message saying, ‘I’m not going to go to class.’ So I went to the school. He ended up not going to class. He just went and sat in the choir room.”
UPDATE: School spokesman Rick Kaufman, who initially declined to comment on details related to “investigations, findings, and outcomes” due to data privacy laws, called Wednesday to confirm that a preliminary investigation by Human Resources found that teacher Greg Gilbert did not call the student stupid. He rejected Alexis Gasca’s recollection of the Friday meeting with staff, where Gilbert allegedly apologized to her for the insult.
“This is a teacher who’s been around for a long time. He’s a very good teacher, and very supportive of students and quite frankly is one of the staff members who has reached out to all students, students of color and white students, to help them in school,” Kaufman said. “He did apologize to the mom and the student in the meeting to assure them that there was nothing that he said, either taken out of context or whatever, was what the student perceived and shared with the parent.”
An independent investigation is ongoing. That investigator will talk with the student, the teacher, and other witnesses.