The Southern California teacher who called U.S. service members “the lowest of our low” in a video that triggered widespread condemnation — including blunt criticism from the White House — has been fired.
The El Rancho Unified School District held a Tuesday night vote to determine the fate of Gregory Salcido, a history teacher at El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera, southeast of Los Angeles.
The board’s decision, nearly two months after his comments went viral, was a unanimous: Salcido is out, said Board of Education President Aurora Villon.
Salcido has been on unpaid leave since January, and Villon said he would remain so pending an appeal.
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“The classroom should never be a place where students feel that they are picked at, bullied, intimidated,” Villon said.
Salcido, who also serves on the Pico Rivera City Council, has 30 days to appeal the school board’s decision, the Los Angeles Times reported.
It’s unclear whether he will; Salcido did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in a text message to the Whittier Daily News, he said that it “would not be appropriate to comment until I am officially notified of a decision by the District.”
Salcido’s expletive-filled rant appeared to connect the undetermined outcome of the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the intellectual capabilities of the troops fighting them.
“Because we have a bunch of dumbs— over there,” Salcido said in the video. “Think about the people who you know who are over there. Your freaking stupid Uncle Louie or whatever … They’re not like high-level thinkers, they’re not academic people, they’re not intellectual people. They’re the lowest of our low.”
Salcido’s profane and disparaging comments sparked harsh condemnation: The school district was deluged by thousands of emails, many from veterans, active-duty troops and military family members, the Times reported.
He was also slammed by White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, a retired Marine general. “Well, I think the guy ought to go to hell,” Kelly said in late January. “I just hope he enjoys the liberties and the lifestyles that we fought for.”
Kelly’s son, Lt. Robert Michael Kelly, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.
A special school board meeting following the video’s release was packed by critics, many of them dressed in military uniforms or sporting hats and shirts referencing their service.
The backlash led to death threats against Salcido and his family, he told the Times in January, and he has since attempted to explain his comments amid calls from his colleagues to resign.
“I don’t think it’s all a revelation to anybody that those who aren’t stellar students usually find the military a better option … that’s not a criticism of anybody. Anything I said had nothing to do with their moral character,” he said during a February city council meeting.
Of the reaction to his remarks, he said: “This is probably the most exaggerated situation I’ve ever seen.”
“I do believe the military is not the best option for my students,” he continued. “That does not mean I’m anti-military, because I’m not.”
Salcido’s attempted clarification did not pass muster with at least one fellow council member.
“He’s disgraced us, disgraced this city, disgraced this nation,” said Councilman Bob Archuleta, a veteran whose two sons are on active duty, the Times said.
Pico Rivera, a predominantly Latino city of 63,000, was founded by veterans after World War II and maintains a strong connection to the military, its mayor, Gustavo Camacho, told The Washington Post.
“I and my fellow council members strongly disagree with Mr. Salcido’s point of view,” Camacho said in January. “Quite frankly, we denounce his statements.”
Camacho estimated that at least 35 percent of Pico Rivera residents had veterans in their families.
Salcido has served on the City Council for nearly 20 years and is a former three-time mayor of Pico Rivera.
His charge on the council, according the website, is to “continue Pico Rivera’s inclusion into the American mainstream.”
But that appears at odds with his recorded rhetoric, which was filled with references to the race and dress of insurgents who have battled U.S. forces.
The military was losing to “dudes wearing freaking robes and chanclas [flip-flops] in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he told his students.
“The data is in, we don’t have a good military,” he continued. “We couldn’t beat the Vietnamese. They’re a bunch of people this freaking big throwing rice at us.”
He also criticized military recruiters in public schools. “It’s a lie that our military is freaking b—,” he said.
“So, if you join the military, it’s because you had no other options,” Salcido was heard saying. “It’s because you didn’t take care of business academically, because your parents didn’t love you enough to push you and then you didn’t love yourself enough to push yourself.”
A recent study appears to undermine Salcido’s assertion that military service is a dead-end proposition.
Nearly one in eight young adults in America did not graduate from high school, but only one in 33 veterans did not have a high school diploma, according to a 2017 study from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York.
The study evaluated a decade of data between 2005 and 2015, culled from post-9/11 veterans.
About half of the post-9/11 veteran population has earned a college degree, compared to 37 percent of the general population, the study said.
One reason: The military requires a high school diploma to enlist and mandates that officers hold college degrees. Waivers for GEDs are difficult to obtain, and veterans have access to the GI Bill when they leave the military.
“Employment, income, and educational attainment rates were consistently higher, and poverty rates consistently lower, than general nationwide rates” among new veterans, the report said.