The Sacramento Bee
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After facing a nationwide backlash, the Natomas Unified School District paid a teacher three years’ salary to resign after he was secretly recorded professing his allegiance to antifa and saying it was his goal to turn his students into “revolutionaries,” records show.
In exchange for leaving his post at Inderkum High School and not fighting his prospective firing, officials in January agreed to pay Gabriel Gipe $190,000, according to settlement records the district provided in response to a California Public Records Act request from The Sacramento Bee. The payout was taxed, and the final checks the district cut totaled about $100,000.
Gipe’s annual base salary was roughly $60,000.
Whether he plans to teach again is unclear, but the settlement bars the district from discussing details of Gipe’s separation with any potential new employers. Officials may only confirm basic details of his employment such as his salary, the dates he worked there and the Jan. 7, 2022 date that he resigned.
Gipe resigned from the district four months after a conservative group known for undercover sting operations published secretly recorded video of him saying that he had 180 days to “scare the s—” out of his students and turn them into “revolutionaries.”
Amid a national feud over what should be taught in school, the September 2021 video from Project Veritas ricocheted around the internet, led to a raucous school board meeting and reportedly inspired extremists — the Proud Boys among them — to target Gipe and his home.
The district announced within days that it planned to fire Gipe and began compiling a dossier outlining the case against him. Those records — totaling more than 1,300 pages — detail what the district said was Gipe’s inappropriate teaching style and his basic failure to prepare students to pass an exam that would earn them college credit.
The decision to pay Gipe to leave came down to basic math, Superintendent Chris Evans said.
An administrative judge ordered Gipe be put on paid leave during any investigation and related hearings — a process that often takes a year or longer. That’s in addition to the appeals process, which can drag on for several more months and rack up tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees.
The judge’s rulings are in line with California’s education code, which detail how teachers can be disciplined and dismissed.
“California is not an easy place to fire a teacher,” Evans said. “I think everyone knows that.”
Ultimately, the district said Gipe engaged in “immoral conduct” and “dishonesty,” and cited him for “evident unfitness for service.” Those citations are the technical grounds for termination.
The district’s investigation revealed that the teacher rejected the typical AP Government course curriculum and instead led freewheeling lectures about communism, earning him nicknames including “Papa Lenin” and “Daddy Marx.” The district also said Gipe created an unwelcoming environment for students and, at one point, posted photos of students who expressed conservative ideas on a political compass on the wall next to a swastika.
He vowed to move everyone to the left by the end of their course, students told district investigators.
Gipe, through his attorney, declined to comment for this story.
Long before the viral video, classroom observers had been aware of Gipe’s conduct in the classroom.
The documents detail how the school district failed for months to take action about his rogue curriculum. While some of Gipe’s political posters and books were purchased only months before he was placed on leave, others were noted during routine class observations, the records show.
A classroom observer in 2019 took a photograph of Gipe’s classroom that happened to show a political poster. The observer entered the image to Gipe’s personnel file. The observer did not reprimand Gipe for the display. It only became a point of concern after district investigators began looking through his file two years later to build a case against him.
Gipe left other signs about his views. Among them: He signed his school emails with a quote from Karl Marx.
“As we said 11 months ago, those were things that were missed,” Evans said in an interview last week. “And as the superintendent, I own that.”
The district has since made its “political action guidelines” part of the required start-of-the-year reading for employees, Evans said. In addition to Gipe’s resignation, the assistant principal overseeing that department no longer works for the district.
“When it came down to individual people that needed to be held accountable,” Evans said, “that action was taken.”
A swastika compass and Donald Trump magnet
The district’s report includes images from the classroom, a review of his recent purchases, print-outs of messages he exchanged with his students and interviews with them about how they felt in his class.
Gipe crossed the line, the district said, by trying to persuade students — children — to adopt leftist ideas in a high school setting where they cannot simply change majors or opt out.
“You used your position of authority with a captive audience of impressionable teenagers to promote your own political ideology, including advocating or teaching communism with the intent to indoctrinate or inculcate in the mind of any pupil a preference for communism,” the district wrote.
In one of the most widely criticized exercises, Gipe had students take a political affiliation quiz to determine where they landed on a political spectrum. Gipe then posted photos of the students on a makeshift compass on the wall, with a sickle and hammer representing communism on the left and a swastika depicting fascism on the right.
The district said the exercise went beyond appropriate political affiliation exercises that place certain beliefs on a spectrum spanning liberal to conservative ideologies.
“I didn’t feel comfortable because I am a moderate and there is a swastika on the very far top right and I felt if my photo was even close to that side they would associate me with that,” one student said in an interview with district investigators, according to the records.
Investigators also found a host of far-left insignia in his classroom including an antifa flag, mug and magnet; a series of Russian nesting dolls; and art from the Occupy Oakland protests. On his classroom refrigerator were magnets depicting brass knuckles, beer and an image of former President Donald Trump with the subtext: “Days without being a national embarrassment: 0.”
“The posters and other visual stuff just makes it seem like a space that isn’t inviting to everyone,” a student said.
He also disavowed the textbook that was supposed to accompany his AP courses. The advanced placement courses can grant students college credit so long as they pass an optional test at the end of the year.
That rarely happened under Gipe’s instruction.
In 2019, the district said 79 of Gipe’s students took the AP exam and only one student passed — a rate district officials said was “well below” the 20% average. The following year, when the test was made somewhat easier due to the pandemic, only six students passed. And in 2021, when 114 students took the test, two passed.
“You … created your own curriculum, which did not match the course syllabus,” officials said. “Rather than preparing students for the AP Government test, you taught students what you thought they should know.”
Lessons centered on current events
Both Gipe and district officials said they were threatened in the days after the secretly recorded video was released. At a board meeting, parents demanded Gipe be fired on the spot.
Gipe’s supporters said much of his alleged wrongdoing was related to performance problems — things that normally result in an employee being put on an improvement plan.
Gipe was never put on such a plan; to the contrary, he was voted by students to be the commencement speaker at high school graduation.
Gipe was well-liked among many of his students. Some of the students the district interviewed spoke fondly of their teacher. Many said his class was engaging, if incredibly easy. Others said Gipe was charismatic and encouraging.
And though the material was far from what they were supposed to be learning, it was interesting and often centered on current events like climate change, corporate media consolidation and mass incarceration, some students said.
“I was just upset with myself for not realizing how the government hides things,” said one student, who did a class project about the government’s deception in Vietnam and the role of federal records laws. “He didn’t tell us that, though. It was based on our own research.”
A new school year at Natomas Unified begins Thursday. Evans said he wants the focus this year to be on the students and not the “hyper political society” that the Gipe incident exposed and that is looming with the upcoming election.
He stood by the actions the district took in dismissing Gipe.
But he acknowledged that for some parents, it might not be enough.
“I hope that we can find a way to move forward and not have that, where we’re always looking for the worst in individuals and people,” Evans said. “And I know that in this case, when you look at all the evidence, it surely doesn’t help some people feel confident that there aren’t others out there.”
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