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Teacher accused of calling student 'Jew boy' to leave school district

March 27, 2012

An embattled La Cañada High School math teacher will leave the district at the end of the school year, bringing to a close a tense six-month chapter in which La Cañada Unified officials were criticized for mishandling concerns about her classroom conduct.

Briefly addressing the subject during a meeting Tuesday, School board President Scott Tracy announced that the board had unanimously approved a settlement with Gabrielle Leko that includes her departure on June 15. In a statement released several hours later, district officials said that the agreement protects students while also shielding the financial interests of the district.

"The board appreciates that any payment amount in a settlement is not immaterial," the statement, available on the board's Facebook page, reads. "However, the cost incurred as a result of this settlement would be exceeded by costs and resources that would be devoted to a long-term, adversarial hearing process without guarantee of ultimate success."

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In a complaint filed in June 2011 and made public in October, then-school board member Cindy Wilcox accused Leko of habitually using abusive language in classroom and addressing a ninth grade geometry student as "Jew boy."

The accusations ignited an uproar, with some in the school community saying the math teacher was the victim of a witch hunt and others deriding school officials for not moving quickly enough to fire her.

In February, following four closed session meetings focused on the issue, the district announced it would start dismissal proceedings against Leko.

On Tuesday, Tracy thanked Supt. Wendy Sinnette for making clear that the district takes such allegations seriously and for overseeing a fair and thorough investigation. 

"I think she showed incredible professionalism and leadership and oversight in managing this process," Tracy said.

RELATED:

Summary of third-party Leko investigation released

School board votes to fire Leko

Op-Ed: The school district and shooting the messenger

-- Megan O'Neil, Times Community News

Twitter: @megankoneil

NOTE: This post has been updated from an earlier version.

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