A high school teacher who has referred to Americans as “frail, racist, white people” and called for a Mexican revolt on U.S. soil has been found fit to continue teaching social studies to public school students.
Ron Gochez, who once declared "Where we now stand is stolen, occupied Mexico," has been the subject of a recent heated debate since a speech he gave at a 2007 rally began circulating on YouTube. He has been accused of making his inflammatory remarks both on and off the campus of Santee Education Complex, a high school in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Unified School District conducted an investigation of Gochez after it was inundated with calls and e-mail complaints from people around the country who questioned whether he has been teaching his students his own personal revisionist brand of American history.
But the investigators concluded that he had not participated in political activism on school time or violated school district policy in any way, and they chalked up the teacher’s controversial remarks to a free-speech issue.
Gochez, in an interview with FoxNews.com, said he had been informed that he had been cleared by the district following its investigation. He said he stood by his political views and contended that his racial remarks were taken out of context; he said they were spoken at a rally in protest of a scheduled speech by members of the local Minutemen organization, and that his comments were directed at the Minutemen alone.
"I don’t have a problem with white people, but I do have problem with racist people like the Minutemen," he said.
The groundswell of national anger over Gochez includes a least two Facebook pages, “Fire Ron Gochez” and “Real Americans That Will Fire Ron Gochez," along with hundreds of comments that have been added to his teacher profile on ratemyteachers.com.
"My daughter says the climate is poisonous," Phyllis Brewer, whose daughter attends high school in the same school district where Gochez teaches, wrote in an e-mail to FoxNews.com while the investigation was ongoing.
"'Chicano' teachers are whipping up racial conflict between students. Bullying was bad enough before. Now irresponsible folks like Mr. Gochez are adding a new, very dangerous element. Hispanic students are telling my daughter that whites stole the land from Mexico, and call her a racist just for being white. Is this what the mayor wants? This is going to lead to violence. The mayor needs to punish Mr. Gochez to send a message that this kind of incitement won't be tolerated"
Sheri Urban, the administrator of StandWithArizona.com and the group’s Facebook page, says her members have been pressuring the district to remove Gochez from his teaching position.
"If Gochez had been a Caucasian teacher who called for a white uprising against the U.S. government, disparaged minorities, and launched an anti-Semitic diatribe against the media, there is little doubt he would have been dismissed within 3 days, let alone the 3 years that Cochez has remained on the job,” she wrote to FoxNews.com.
“For L.A.County to 'boycott' the state of Arizona for what it calls 'racial profiling,' while one of its own teachers spoke to his students about fighting a racial 'enemy,' is the height of hypocrisy. Our Facebook page -- nearly 200,000 strong -- will continue to put the pressure on until Gochez is disciplined. Race-baiting hate speech has no place in our public school system.”
But a school district spokesman, Robert Alaniz, said teachers have to submit lesson plans in advance and there's no evidence that Gochez has been inserting his own political views into his teaching. He said Gochez has the constitutional right to participate in activism on his own time.
When asked if he engaged in political activism with students in his classroom, Gochez said, “No more than any other teachers.”
Gochez's own Facebook page shows interests ranging from dozens of activist groups to “Smoke Weed” and lists his motto, "Revolucion o muerte, VENCEREMOS!!!" (Revolution or Death. We shall overcome!).
He came under fire after he was identified in a widely circulated YouTube video showing him speaking at a rally at UCLA in 2007 for La Raza, a group calling for Mexican revolution inside the United States.
“We are revolutionary Mexican organization here," he said at the rally. "We understand that this is not just about Mexico. It’s about a global struggle against imperialism and capitalism At the forefront of this revolutionary movement is La Raza.
"We will no longer fall for these lies called borders. We see America as a northern front of a revolutionary movement.…40 million potential revolutionaries inside the border, inside the belly of the beast.
“We are revolutionary teachers, revolutionary students, our enemy is the same enemy as Hugo Chavez. Our enemy is capitalism and imperialism.”
Gochez said he does not regret his remarks. "What I said, I meant it," he said.
Alaniz said the school district's lawyers reviewed the video and determined that there was no evidence that Gochez had violated district policy. He chalked up the rhetoric to an issue of free speech.
“A 3-year-old video surfaced of a speech he gave in 2007 and it’s been inserted into the whole Arizona debate, and I think folks are trying to make a bigger issue out of this than it is,” Alaniz said. “I viewed the video and I didn’t see anything revolutionary about it.
“As long as they’re not doing it on school district time, we really can’t control this. Obviously, it’s a matter of free speech; we can’t really punish anyone for exercising free speech. As long as he’s not doing it in the classroom, as long as he’s not doing it on site, as long as it isn’t on school time or at a district site, people are free to engage in political activities. This appears to be some political activity on his own free time.
But Gochez has hosted at least a dozen fundraising or activist meetings held at Santee Education Complex in the last four years, many of which appear to have been attended by students, according to e-mails and memos sent to activist listserves uncovered by FoxNews.com.
Gochez defended these meetings, saying that providing students, many of whom are undocumented, with legal advice and information is "not political, it's a service." According to the school district's website, 92 percent of the student body was Hispanic or Latino last year.
He acknowledged belonging to an organization of progressive educators who believe in organizing students and engaging them in community activism.
In hundreds of listserve messages posted in the last five years, Gochez, who signed his e-mails "Ron Gochez, Social Justice Educator/Community Activist," has:
-- invited students to participate in numerous causes, including campaigning against military recruitment and JROTC programs in Los Angeles high schools;
-- raised money to give to illegal immigrant families;
-- organized a years-long fight against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which he describes as a “terrorist” government agency;
-- continued to fight for the legalization of all illegal immigrants;
-- protested Arizona’s new immigration law, among a slew of other causes.
His overarching theme has been to promote the Mexican revolution on U.S. soil, to reclaim American land for Mexico and to open the borders and legalize all illegal immigrants in the U.S.
He has equated his goal to reclaim American land for Mexico with the Palestinian cause, writing:
“As Raza, WE ourselves have been occupied (like Gaza is today) since 1492 and then again in 1848. We should be totally in support of the brave people of Palestine. They are doing what most Hispanics today would NEVER do; fight for their land, dignity and freedom.
"War itself is not the problem. Reactionary war is the problem. There is a HUGE difference between the two. Revolutionary war and war for freedom is and should always will be absolutely justified. Oppressed peoples have every right to free themselves.. .by any means necessary.”
In 2002, Gochez wrote an op-ed in a San Diego State University newspaper rife with anti-Semitic rhetoric, including his belief that "Jewish-owned media continues to blind the masses with propaganda to keep them in fear."
In a 2008 message he implored others to organize against ICE, writing:
“We clearly understand that both the Democrats (like the Republicans) are enemies of the working class and that they have NOT promised to stop the terrorist ICE (Migra) Raids that will CONTINUE to separate families in our communities....
“If you are SERIOUS about organizing against the Migra (ICE), join the Frente Contra las Redadas!”
The meeting was held at the Santee Education Complex's cafeteria.
Two weeks ago, Gochez held an anti-immigration law community forum at the high school. One goal of the meeting, he wrote in an e-mail blasted to radical activism listserves, was to figure out “what can we do from Los Angeles to support our brothers and sisters in Arizona as they struggle against the racist SB1070.”