A Riverside County school district is investigating a series of social media posts made by teachers Thursday saying the absence of students participating in the nationwide A Day Without Immigrants strike created a more productive classroom environment.
In the offending comments, which were posted in a public thread on Facebook but have since been removed, at least six teachers at Rubidoux High School in Riverside discussed what they saw as positive effects of the missing students. Social science teacher Geoffrey Greer issued the original post, which said having his class size reduced by 50 percent served to support President Donald Trump’s executive orders cracking down on immigration because it illustrated “how much better things might be without all this overcrowding.”
He then characterized those who protested as “lazy” or looking for an excuse to get drunk.
When art teacher Robin Riggle chimed in to say she had 50 absences, Greer responded, “I bet your class went a lot more smoothly as well.”
“Yes, it was a very pleasant day,” Riggle wrote.
Science teacher Allen Umbarger characterized those absent as failing students, and agriculture teacher Rhonda Fuller and science teacher Chuck Baugh agreed their students were less disruptive. “Let’s do this more often,” Baugh said.
Patricia Crawford, a guidance counselor, said lunchtime was calmer, the cafeteria was cleaner than usual and there were no “discipline issues” Thursday.
“More, please,” Crawford wrote.
Students, parents and alumni responded with shock at the derogatory comments, and Greer deleted the original post and issued an apology.
“While I stand by my assertion that skipping school is no way to demonstrate one’s value to society, I do apologize for the harsh tone and hurtful structure of the previous message,” he wrote.
The school district is looking into how to handle the issue and Jurupa Valley Unified staff will be on the Rubidoux campus Friday to meet with students, Superintendent Elliott Duchon said.
“Neither the board, nor staff, had any forewarning that such comments would be posted,” Duchon said in a statement. “We want to express that we are deeply concerned and distressed about the postings. We will investigate further and will take appropriate action in this matter.”
Anthony Coffey, whose boyfriend is a Rubidoux alum, said he found it inappropriate the teachers would make light of a serious issue affecting many students’ families.
“Teachers that some of these students looked up to have now made many of them feel uncomfortable and even scared to go to class tomorrow,” Coffey told KTLA. “School is supposed to be a safe zone where we can all feel comfortable to gain the education we need.”
A current student who spoke to KTLA on the condition of anonymity said students were planning to protest the incident at school Friday by wearing green, red and white — the colors of the Mexican flag — and bringing printouts of the teachers’ comments.