Several community members turned up at Wednesday’s Clovis Unified board meeting in support of a teacher accused of telling a student who didn’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance to “go back to her country.”
Ryan Person was among those who spoke in support of Clovis East High School agriculture science teacher Ken Dias, who said the remarks attributed to him are “blatantly erroneous, and/or severely taken out of context.”
Person, who described himself as a friend and former student of Dias, said the student’s allegations covered by The Bee “deeply insinuated that he is a racist man and should be fired for verbally attacking a student.”
“All those allegations are inaccurate,” Person said.
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Person said he does not harbor any ill will toward Thailia Luna, the student who accused Dias according to a school incident report. “Rest assured there will always be one person there to support you, and that is Mr. Ken Dias, because that is the kind of man and the kind of teacher that he is,” Person said.
Beau Williamson, who also said he was a former student of Dias’, described him as a teacher who cares deeply about his students. “There’s things beyond the classroom, beyond the curriculum that I needed to be taught about and Mr. Dias is the man to do that,” Williamson said. “He is the man that inspired me and many others in this audience to be the very best we could be in mind, body and spirit.”
At one point during the meeting, another speaker asked the audience to stand if they supported Dias. Around 35 people stood up and clapped, including several uniformed Future Farmers of America students.
Dias addressed the allegations on Monday in a statement reported by the Clovis Roundup. In the statement Dias said the issue was not with Luna sitting during the pledge, but rather, her cell phone use. “She was initially instructed that she should not be on her cell phone. My request was met by this student with argument and hostility,” Dias said.
Luna said in a report obtained by The Bee that Dias took her phone after she refused to stand during the pledge on Feb. 7. “He repeatedly told me I was a disgrace and continuously yelled at me across the classroom from his desk,” Luna, 14, wrote in the report.
District spokeswoman Kelly Avants said after the meeting that the board could not comment on items not on the agenda, but public interest is always taken into consideration. “The board members and superintendent listened attentively at what they had to say and value the passion and interest of the community in its schools,” she said.
Parents have called on Clovis Unified to address reports of racism on its campuses within recent months.
Earlier this month a parent reported to the board that her son had been called a racist slur during a soccer game. In addition, district officials have previously said staff training and other measures would be taken in response to racist messages sent over social media by some students.