By CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA | Reporter
Head of Security at Palisades Charter High School Jorge Gracias has been fired after being accused of inappropriate conduct by at least one student in December. Gracias returned to work from temporary leave for a short period of time in January before being permanently fired, according to sources familiar with the situation.
At the monthly Pali High Board Meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 27, several students and parents spoke out in support of Gracias, demanding a deeper investigation and accusing the board of mishandling the situation.
“The school is failing to respect one of the basic fundamental tenets ingrained into our very own judicial system, that being, innocent until proven guilty,” Pali High senior Lily Kaplan said during the public comments. “It is our duty and obligation to stand up for someone we believe needs and deserves our help.”
Board members listened intently but reminded the public that concerns brought up during the public comments would not be immediately discussed.
Gracias was known at school and in the community for leading the From One Hand to Another student club, raising funds and supplies to send to children in Guatemala—his home country.
Former teacher at Pali High Maria Giribaldi also gave a public comment in defense of Gracias, whom she has known for many years.
“I was so shocked and profoundly disturbed when I heard that Mr. Gracias had been terminated from his employment,” Giribaldi said.
“I was even more disturbed when I heard that the persons whose complaints are at the heart of the decision to fire him are students whom he had disciplined for playing hooky and leaving school for a rendezvous with boyfriends.
“The students are duping the school, their parents, the teachers and the administrators who believe them.”
In an article in the Palisadian-Post from November 2017, “I Never Forget Where I Came From,” Gracias admitted his job sometimes requires him to be “the bad guy,” raising the question if this is one of those times.
Another student informed the board on Tuesday night that a petition was being passed around to demand the reinstatement of Gracias and will be presented at the following board meeting.
The Pali High Board of Directors announced at the end of the Feb. 27 meeting that they had voted to terminate the employment of an unnamed employee during the closed session. Gracias reportedly received a letter of termination shortly after. By March 2, Pali High posted a job vacancy online in search of a “Campus Aide-Security.”
When asked for details of the allegations, Amy Nguyen, Pali High’s director of human resources, declined to comment due to all personnel issues being confidential, leaving it unclear why Gracias was allowed to return to work before being fired.
However, in an email to the Post, Nguyen said, “Please be assured that PCHS takes all allegations of inappropriate conduct seriously, regardless of the nature of the allegations and regardless of whether the allegations are against an employee or a student, and PCHS takes action in response to all such allegations.”
Nguyen further explained that actions taken by the school depend on the varying circumstances of each case.
Gracias is consulting with his family and is not immediately responding to requests for comment. He is also expected to be consulting with legal counsel on a course of action.