CHS teacher back on job after investigation
by Mick Rhodes | firstname.lastname@example.org
Claremont High School physical education teacher Rosalinda Castillo was back on the job this week after a monthlong district investigation into inflammatory remarks she made to students last month.
“After complaints from students regarding statements PE teacher, Rosa Castillo was reported to have made during school on October 14, 2021, the District immediately conducted an investigation,” read a statement from Claremont Unified School District emailed to the COURIER. “A thorough investigation was completed over the next four weeks by the Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources [Kevin Ward] that included interviews with students and staff and a review of any pertinent evidence and documents.
“Any potential employee discipline the District took against Ms. Castillo is confidential and the District cannot comment further on employee matters. Ms. Castillo returned to work effective November 15, 2021.”
Castillo spent just over a month on paid administrative leave after the October 14 alleged remarks.
The teacher’s alleged outburst was apparently brought on by the district’s then impending implementation of California’s August 11 mandate that all public school employees either be vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing by October 15.
Ward would not comment on which avenue Castillo agreed to go down in order to be compliant with the state order.
“I can’t tell you which. That would be a confidential medical record,” Ward said. “But I can tell you that I have all [district] employees compliant with the state mandate. All employees have to do one or the other.”
Student witnesses told the COURIER Castillo’s October 14 outburst included statements accusing the district of “pushing” the vaccine on her. She is alleged to have also told them she “cannot stand down,” claimed it was her “God given right” under the United States Constitution to refuse it, and “the lord told her not to get vaccinated.” She also allegedly claimed, falsely, the COVID vaccine could damage her reproductive health (this apparently in reference to a host of debunked conspiracy theories), and she “would not back down to this manipulation, this mind control.” She is also said to have claimed that forcing teachers and students to wear masks while indoors on campus, as well as California’s vaccine or test mandate — which she has now agreed to adhere to — were both unconstitutional.
“We concluded the investigation, made a finding of fact, and took that next step, anything from a conversation and no discipline all the way through filing for termination,” Ward said.
Ward declined to share the content of the finding of fact, again citing confidentiality concerns. He also would not say whether or not the investigation found Castillo’s alleged speech violated district policy, California Educational Code or the terms of her employment contract.
“That’s what I can’t comment on. Employee discipline is confidential. There’s a [California Education Code] that protects that. So, unfortunately the public can’t be made aware of any potential discipline the district takes with an employee.”
Ward outlined the district’s policy on paid and unpaid leave while investigations are taking place, saying if an allegation rises to the very highest level of concern — say when an employee is accused of hitting a student, or is alleged to have had a sexual relationship with a student — he or she is placed on unpaid administrative leave. In all other cases, he or she is placed on paid leave. By this measure it’s clear Castillo was on paid leave during the monthlong investigation.
Ward also declined to comment on whether or not the Castillo case was heard by the Claremont Unified School District Board of Education, or an administrative hearing officer, both of which can hear testimony in disciplinary matters.
“I have to be careful about releasing confidential information, but just because an employee is back [on the job] doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t rise to those levels,” Ward said. “You could have charges filed on behalf of the district and the board making a determination. So, I’m trying to help you understand the process without giving you the specific information about an employee.”
The administrator also declined to state whether Castillo represented herself during the interviews and other hearings that took place during the investigation, or whether she had union and/or legal representation.
In related news, as reported last week, the three CUSD employees who had previously requested religious exemptions to the state vaccinate or test edict are also now back on the job, having agreed to one or the other. This, along with the resolution of the Castillo investigation, with her now back on the job, has left Ward with a clean slate on this issue for the first time in months. It’s a position administrators in other similarly-sized surrounding school districts would envy.
“Some of the large districts obviously are a little bit larger, but most of the districts that are kind of in our size range have that three to five range of employees who are going through that accommodation process or refusing or going on leave,” Ward said. “I’m the only one I know of, at least anecdotally, through the email chain with my colleagues, that has a district that’s currently fully compliant.”
So, after much fanfare and passionate outcry from those on both sides of this issue, the Castillo matter has now been adjudicated. The COURIER asked Ward is he pleased with what some may perceive as a “happy ending” to the conflict.
“I mean, yeah. This is what I do, right?” he said. “These things happen. It’s part of the administration of a large organization like this. I take my responsibilities very sincerely and it’s of high importance when complaints are filed. We take every complaint that’s brought to the district and take it through a process to really ensure the complainant that we’ve really looked into it thoroughly. This is not a district that brushes stuff under the rug or sidesteps or doesn’t address matters head on.
“And I do think it absolutely does the work of the people. We’re representing the community here, and we want the community to have trust in our organization, and we work very hard to make sure that happens.”
The COURIER reached out to Castillo multiple times this week in hopes of including her voice in this story, but did not receive a reply.
Castillo began working as a coach for CUSD in 1998. She was hired as a physical education teacher in 2004. Her yearly base salary is $99,319, plus a benefits package worth $5,400, for a total value of $104,719 per year.