GLENDALE, AZ - A Valley school district on Wednesday stepped forward to announce that a substitute teacher who sparked a nationwide debate about racism did work at several of its schools.
Tony Hill e-mailed a letter to State Senator Russell Pearce which included the sentence, “I have found that substitute teaching in these areas most of the Hispanic students do not want to be educated but rather be gang members and gangsters.”
State Senator Lori Klein read that letter during a debate over an immigration bill on the Arizona Senate floor last week, sparking controversy and questions about her judgment.
According to the Glendale Elementary School District, Tony Hill worked nine days as a substitute teacher in the district. Spokesman Jim Cummings told ABC15 Hill is not a district employee and was not one of GESD's regular substitute teachers, but worked for Teachers On Call, a substitute teacher placement service.
ABC15 called Teachers On Call and left three voicemail messages for Matt Klemish, the man who the company said is authorized to speak with the media. ABC15 also sent Klemish an e-mail but so far he has not responded.
When the letter was read, senators were debating a bill that would have required schools to check each student’s legal status. That bill, along with four others dealing with immigration-related matters, failed.
In the letter, Hill details events that took place in an eighth grade Glendale classroom with "almost all Hispanic and a couple of Black children."
He later writes, “Most of them stated they were in the country illegally, White Americans are racist, and that they came here for a better life.”
The author says his wife and children are Hispanic.
According to Hill's letter, the students were tearing pages out of textbooks, throwing pencils, generally not prepared for class and speaking Spanish in class. He also said many failed to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
District officials tell ABC15 Hill taught eighth grade writing and social studies at Harold W. Smith Elementary School on March 8.
In an e-mailed statement, the district said it believes that "the statements made by Mr. Hill in regard to the students and school were not accurate. Students who were interviewed did not recall making or hearing any of the inflammatory statements attributed to them by Mr. Hill, and students also said they stood for the daily recital of the Pledge of Allegiance."
On an exit form every substitute teacher is required to fill out at the end of the day, Hill did write that the students did not follow directions or act properly. He did not mention any of the events that he wrote in his letter to Senator Pearce.
District spokesman Jim Cummings said, “Based on our conversations with students, based on our conversation with the teacher involved, we simply believe what he said is extremely exaggerated and not reflective of what our school is all about.”
Some of the students at Harold W. Smith Elementary told ABC15 the only part of the letter they believe is when Hill implies that they were unruly.
Seventh grader Ezequiel Tovar tells ABC15 it is customary for kids to give “subs” a hard time, saying, “it’s only with substitutes because the kids think they can get away with it.”
Teacher Ellen Colby agrees that it is customary for students to be a bit rowdy with substitutes. “Substitutes take a beating. I’ve substitute taught too, it’s hard.”
She added that as a substitute teacher, Hill should know that kids will give you trouble, especially eighth graders, who she has had experience teaching in Flagstaff.
"That's a hard grade to teach, it really is,” she said.
Though Colby can’t say what the students did or did not say to Hill, she admits she was upset that Hill would say that most Hispanics would rather be gang members than learn.
“That's bad for a teacher to do. You need to have a lot of faith in your kids and hope for the best. These guys don't have a chance if you judge them now,” Colby said. “Kids are the same everywhere, they want a good life, they don't want to be a gang banger.”
The district said it will continue to investigate the matter.
Meantime, the Glendale principal has sent the following letter home to parents:
Dear Smith Parents / Guardians,
Some of you may have noticed TV cameras in front of our school today. They were here reporting on a story in reaction to email that was read on the floor of the Arizona Senate that made disparaging remarks about our students and school. Below is a statement from our District in reaction
The Glendale Elementary School District continued its investigation to determine if Tony Hill, the substitute teacher whose email was read on the floor of the Arizona Senate, worked in GESD schools. That investigation revealed that Mr. Hill has worked nine days as a substitute teacher in our District.
Mr. Hill is not one of GESD's regular substitutes, which is why his name did not appear when the District's employee data banks were searched, and why our statements
to the media reflected that fact. However, we confirmed yesterday that Mr. Hill works for Teachers On Call, a substitute teacher placement service used by the District when our regular substitute teachers are not available to fill the District's substitute teaching needs.
Mr. Hill has worked as a substitute in GESD for nine days since the start of the 2010-11 school year at three different schools. Of those nine assignments, only two were with eighth graders: on March 9 when he substituted for an art teacher at Challenger Middle School, and on March 8 when he substituted for an eighth grade reading, writing and social studies teacher at Harold W. Smith Elementary School.
Based on the District's current investigation, which includes interviews with students and the teacher for whom Mr. Hill was a substitute, the District believes that the statements made by Mr. Hill in regard to our students and school were not accurate. Students who were interviewed did not recall making or hearing any of the inflammatory statements attributed to them by Mr. Hill, and students also said they stood for the daily recital of the Pledge of Allegiance.
The District's investigation did confirm that students were asked to write letters to State Sen. Steve Gallardo. After watching a video of a news segment featuring him and commentator Lou Dobbs, students were asked to write a letter in which they took a position either for or against statements made by Sen. Gallardo. The goal of the assignment was to write a letter that used reason to convince the Senator to change his position, or that used reason to support his position. This type of assignment is not unusual at this grade level, and conforms with both District curriculum and state educational standards.
The District will continue to investigate this matter, but does not believe that Mr. Hill's email accurately reflects the conduct of the students and staff of Harold W. Smith Elementary School
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Rick Alvarez, Ed.D.
READ THE TEACHER'S LETTER ON THE NEXT PAGE
Dear Senator Russell Pearce,
I am compelled to write to you about a recent event that occurred to me. I currently work as a substitute teacher in the west valley areas of Phoenix, Glendale, and Peoria. I was called upon to teach history and language arts for 8th grade at a Glendale public school. The number of students I had in each class ranged from 28 to 38 children, which were almost all Hispanic and a couple of Black children. The day started out as usual turning on the television listening and watching the announcements and saying the Pledge of Allegiance. During the Pledge of Allegiance I notice the vast majority of students refusing to stand and say the pledge. I asked the students why they refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance and they responded by saying, "we are Mexicans and Americans stole our land."
The teacher's instructions were for the students to read a few pages and answer the questions regarding Mark Twain in their history textbook and to finish their final drafts to Senator Steve Gallardo thanking him for his position on Illegal Immigration rights. Their teacher apparently had showed them a video with Senator Steve Gallardo and Lou Dobbs. Most of the students came unprepared for class not possessing paper and pencil. I provided the students with paper and pencils only to have them wade-up the paper and throw it at each other along with their pencils.
The students' final drafts that I read were basically the same. Most of them stated they were in the country illegally, White Americans are racist, and that they came here for a better life. I asked the class if America adopted Mexico immigration laws would Americans still be consider racist? That question they could not answer and called me a racist for asking it. I mentioned that my wife and children are Hispanic so how could I be racist?
I asked the students to stop speaking Spanish in class because it was impolite to speak a language in front of people who may not speak that language. Their response was that Americans better learn Spanish and their customs because they are taking their land back from us.
When it came to completing the Mark Twain assignment only 10 students completed it out of all my classes. Most of the students refused to open the book, tore the pages out of the book, or threw the textbooks at each other. I thought are these the students we are trying to educate with taxpayers money. I have found that substitute teaching in these areas most of the Hispanic students do not want to be educated but rather be gang members and gangsters. They hate America and are determined to reclaim this area for Mexico. If we are able to remove the illegals out of our schools, the class sizes would be reduced and the students who wanted to learn would have a better chance to do so and become productive citizens.
I applaud and support your efforts to stop this invasion into our state and country. When the citizens of a country are forced to speak the invaders language, adopt their customs, and forced to support them, are we not a conquer nation? I do not want to see our state and nation turned into a third world country. Thank you for standing up to this invasion. You may contact me by phone, e-mail, or mail. Thank you, again.
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