Scandinavian Middle teachers and staff have a message for the public: We support vice principal Joe DiFilippo.
About a dozen educators from the school came to Fresno Unified’s school board meeting Wednesday night to deliver a letter signed by more than 30 teachers there, offering their support for DiFilippo who is on paid leave after being recorded on a student’s cellphone saying, “I just don’t like the black kids.”
The video, recorded outside the cafeteria at the east-central Fresno campus, has caused an uproar among many students and parents and drew national media attention last week.
At Wednesday’s meeting, teachers and friends described DiFilippo as a person of integrity. Many wore pink Scandinavian Middle T-shirts and held signs of support.
Teacher Mario Ordaz told trustees the group believes DiFilippo was set up. He said students can easily find video tutorials online showing the best ways to set up a teacher or get them fired.
“Students are almost bragging about how you can do this,” he told the board. “We back (DiFilippo) up 100%.”
Several spoke about DiFilippo’s character and pleaded with the board to consider his long tenure of service.
DiFilippo has long been the first person to greet Scandinavian custodian and plant operator Young Thao when he starts his shift each morning. Thao told the board DiFilippo is his “mentor” and always asks about his family.
One of the vice principal’s best friends, Mike Bogna, said, “He’s dedicated to his job and his family and has been nothing but a stellar citizen in this community.”
School district officials have hired an outside investigator from Oliver, Thomas, Pierce and Patty to probe the incident. Spokesman Jed Chernabaeff said DiFilippo will remain on paid leave until the investigation is concluded.