Mountain View High School placed history teacher Frank Navarro on leave Thursday after a parent emailed the school over comments Navarro made about President-elect Donald Trump. While the story generated international headlines over the weekend, Navarro returned to the classroom and taught his class Monday.
“They said come in as soon as possible,” Navarro said. “Superintendent (Jeff Harding) said it would be a good idea to come back right away.”
A photograph taken in Navarro's class
The Mountain View High School Oracle, the student newspaper, reported that a student was upset by Navarro’s statements equating Trump with Adolf Hitler. Navarro said Eric Goddard, associate superintendent for the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District, told him that he would be placed on paid administrative leave while an investigation reviewed whether he quoted Trump’s “grabbing women” comment and whether he compared Trump to Hitler.
In an email to Mountain View High parents Friday, Principal Dave Grissom revealed that the school was conducting an “investigation of alleged inappropriate behavior.”
“The paid leave process is an opportunity for a ‘time-out’ while we gather information to determine the basis of any allegation,” Grissom wrote.
A Mountain View parent supported Grissom’s decision.
“Grissom is an outstanding principal,” said Mike Johnson, a Mountain View resident and real estate broker. “He is a friend of mine. He was shocked by it and in disbelief and was disappointed.”
Johnson said he was frustrated with what he called “propaganda” from teachers like Navarro.
“I am very frustrated with it, because it is my tax dollars going to that school. There are other issues going on at MVHS right now,” he said. “They are having therapy sessions for kids who have to cope with the election. Really? Cope with the election? Did they have those when Obama won the election?”
Navarro, a Mandel Fellow at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum who has taught at Mountain View High for 40 years, told the Town Crier that “the issue of grabbing women came out,” but that he did not use obscene language to describe assaulting women.
Navarro said he told his classroom that “there are many parallels” between Trump and Hitler.
“I naturally talked about Trump and Clinton,” Navarro said. “I look for factual evidence to claims. Kids followed that line.”
Navarro, who grew up in Oakland and is of Mexican descent, said Hispanic students (who make up approximately 20 percent of Mountain View High’s student body) have approached him with their fears of Trump’s promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants during his first 100 days in office.
“History is important. It moves our lives,” Navarro said. “I’ve never seen a principal demand less education rather than more.”
Navarro said he received a phone call Sunday night to return to work the next morning. Over the weekend, a Change.org petition demanding Navarro’s return gathered nearly 30,000 signatures, and the incident received attention from The Washington Post and London Telegraph.
Monday morning, Harding sent an email to Mountain View parents.
“The teacher’s paid leave was not for teaching a lesson comparing Trump to Hitler,” he wrote. “The administrators involved were responding to a specific parent and student complaint of a serious nature. It is our duty to investigate such a complaint to ensure the emotional safety of all of our students. … (Navarro) was reinstated as soon as we were confident that the environment was safe for students and is back in class this morning.”
According to Navarro, union representatives and school administrators held a meeting Monday to discuss how Mountain View High will move forward after the incident.
“I could have retired five years ago,” he said. “I am here because I think it is important, both for me and the community I serve.”
Update: Mike Johnson, who is quoted in this article, no longer lives in the state of California.