PICO RIVERA, Calif. — A Southern California teacher and councilman who sparked national outcry after saying that American troops are “the lowest of our low,” is refusing to resign from his post.
On Tuesday, the Pico Rivera City Council passed a resolution calling for Gregory Salcido’s resignation. Before the vote, dozens of veterans, teachers and former students in the southeastern Los Angeles County community rallied outside the building and took the podium slamming Salcido for nearly three hours.
“How dare have you not resigned?” a woman asked Salcido.
In his first public appearance since the incident, Salcido said he and his family have received multiple death threats and apologized to the community.
But he said the comments attributed to him were “definitely taken out of context.”
“If this situation caused a problem, I certainly do apologize for it,” Salcido said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “If anything I’ve said has hurt somebody it was unintentional.”
His comments were intended to motivate his students to go to college, he explained.
“I don’t think the people in the military have low moral character. I think people in the military or students who look into the military are lower standing students,” Salcido added. “That’s not a moral judgment on them.”
Since the council does not have the power to remove Salcido, voters would need to petition a recall election against him.
Salcido was elected to the Pico Rivera City Council in 1999.
The video was shot by Victor Quiñonez, a 17-year-old senior.
Karen Rodriguez, Quiñonez’s mother, told CNN that her son was wearing a Marine Corps sweatshirt that day. When he got up to turn in some work, Salcido asked him to explain why he was planning on joining the military after graduation.
Then he made the comments, and Victor started surreptitiously taping it when he got back to his desk, Rodriguez said.
“They are not high-level bankers, they are not academic people, they are not intellectual people,” the voice in the video says. “They are the lowest of our low.”
“I don’t understand why we let the military guys come over here and recruit you at school. We don’t let pimps come in the school,” the voice adds in the 6-minute video recording.
In another part of the video, the voice also appeared to make racial statements about Asians:
“We couldn’t beat the Vietnamese, they are a bunch of people this big throwing rice at us, and we couldn’t beat them.”
The voice also tells the student not to join the military and to never wear the sweatshirt again.
Quiñonez’s father is a Marine Corps veteran who fought in Afghanistan, Rodriguez said. And Quiñonez plans to follow in his footsteps.
So he felt discouraged and offended when he heard his teacher speak so negatively of the military, his mother said.
Quiñonez showed the video to her. She shared it with a friend, who then posted it online two weeks ago.
The El Rancho Unified School District has been “conducting a complete and timely investigation” into the incident and has placed Salcido on paid administrative leave, according to a statement.
“Our classrooms are not the appropriate place for one-sided discussions that undermine the values our families hold dear. We are investigating. We will find out exactly what happened and take all appropriate action to ensure that the values of our students and families are respected in our schools,” the school district said a few days after the incident.