Many in the Spartans community are still upset after a Mountain View High School teacher was placed on paid administrative leave soon after the U.S. election, only to return to the classroom the next school day.
Frank Navarro, longtime Mountain View High history teacher, was suspended the afternoon of Nov. 10 while the high school investigated allegations of inappropriate behavior in class, including Navarro’s comparison of President-elect Donald Trump with Adolf Hitler. Navarro returned to the classroom Nov. 14, after the Veterans Day holiday and the weekend.
One Los Altos parent wrote an open letter to Superintendent Jeff Harding calling the handling of the situation “unsatisfactory.”
“None of your behavior is justifiable, nor is your Monday letter where you continue to smear Mr. Navarro’s reputation by giving the allegations the aura of credibility,” the parent wrote to Harding. “Your actions and statements have been reprehensible.”
Harding responded to the parent promptly.
“I can understand your reaction,” Harding replied. “Public school districts are bound by law and court rulings to maintain strict confidentiality pertaining to personnel investigations resulting from submission of complaints against school personnel.”
Harding explained that the school is moving past the incident, which generated international headlines.
“We closed that case,” he said. “The teacher was back on Monday morning.”
Harding emphasized that the issue was not about making historical parallels to Trump, but rather classroom safety.
“We are confident that the environment in the classroom is safe and the teacher has a clear understanding of the expectations of dialogue in any public school in California.”
Former student recalls lessons
Diana Arreola, who graduated from Mountain View High in 2011 and now works for the Mountain View Public Library, recalled taking a summer school class with Navarro.
“He taught us a lot about slavery, segregation and genocide,” she said.
Now 23, Arreola remembered the difficulty of being one of the hundreds of Chicana students at Mountain View High.
“When I got to high school and was put in the advanced classes, I was sometimes the only Mexican kid in my class. It was very difficult,” she said. “There were a lot of privileged kids in my classes who did not really know a lot of people of color. It was really tricky to navigate.”
That trickiness even trickled up to the teachers.
“When I was there, there were a few teachers of color. But the majority of my teachers were white,” Arreola said. “Even my Spanish teacher was white. … There are quite a few undocumented people and Latinos, but MVHS is still a white kind of space.”
For Arreola, teachers like Navarro provide a variety of narratives to help the school’s diverse student body understand their place in the Bay Area and the world.
“When I heard about what happened to him, I was upset,” she said. “I know how important his lessons are for other people to know.”