Cal teacher fired for classroom fight

Erica Drake and Emily Mun

Cal High English teacher Marc Glassberg was fired by the school board on Tuesday after it initially delayed a decision earlier this month.

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District’s five-person board of education decided to follow Superintendent Mary Shelton’s recommendation to fire Glassberg without cause, said Kathy Rains, one of Glassberg’s attorneys.

This decision was postponed after the board’s Feb. 11 meeting because members of the board said they needed to gather more information on the case.

Rains said Glassberg and his attorneys were not allowed to see the evidence against him.

“He was not provided with any meaningful or informed opportunity to respond to the school board as to what occurred or what the witnesses said,” Rains said on Wednesday.

In November, Glassberg was involved in an alleged physical altercation in his classroom with a freshman boy, resulting in the teacher’s removal from campus.

The freshman involved in the incident had been asked to leave the classroom because of disruptive behavior.

The student refused at first but eventually he began to slowly walk to the door, causing Glassberg to allegedly attack him, several freshmen in the class said.

But there were multiple accounts of what occurred in the classroom.  Many students said Glassberg made physical contact first, but others said he was just trying to escort the boy from the classroom when the boy pushed him.

Some students said they saw the boy punch Glassberg, while others said the teacher put the student in a headlock.

Glassberg’s case remained under wraps from the public until the board meeting on Feb. 11.

At that time, Glassberg’s case was brought to light during the open discussion portion of the school board meeting when one of his attorneys, Michael Rains, spoke on his behalf.

Michael Rains, who is Kathy Rains’ husband and the principal of the law firm Rains Lucia Stern in Pleasant Hill, spoke not only as Glassberg’s legal representative but also as a parent of one of Glassberg’s students.

Michael Rains explained his son’s excitement about Glassberg, who joined Cal after teaching in New York and Los Angeles for more than 20 years.

As a first-year teacher in the district, Glassberg has temporary status, meaning he has no rights as an employee and it is easier for the school board to fire him, Michael Rains explained.

After Michael Rains addressed the board, Glassberg then read from a prepared speech, expressing no ill will against the district or board. He also had nothing but good things to say about Cal and the staff.

During his speech, Glassberg reminded the board that in his entire teaching career, there had been no wrongdoings and that he had reacted appropriately to the given situation.

Glassberg closed his statement by asking for the board to look further into the incident before making a decision.

“I believe I can fulfill the role of a good teacher,” Glassberg said.

Kathy Rains  also addressed the board and spoke of Glassberg’s abilities as a teacher. She explained she had been apprehensive about the district’s changes in adopting the new Common Core curriculum.

But after listening to Glassberg at Back to School Night, she said she was convinced the changes could be for the best.

She added that Glassberg is also a good role model for other teachers.

Glassberg and his attorneys also addressed the board at its Feb. 25 meeting and reiterated their beliefs that Glassberg is a valuable teacher and should not be fired.

In an interview with The Californian, Kathy Rains said she and her husband contacted Glassberg and told him they were sorry for what happened and offered to represent him.

“We felt he needed some representation and needed somebody to go out on a limb for him,” said Kathy Rains, whose husband’s firm primarily represents public employees.

Kathy Rains said their point to the board was to highlight Glassberg’s merit as a teacher.

Human Resources, which is in charge of employee related incidences, is supposed to investigate and then recommend how to resolve a situation. The report is then presented to the board, which decides if it wants to follow the recommendation.

Prior to firing an employee, he or she is given the chance to see the evidence in the case and respond to it.  Kathy Rains felt Glassberg’s investigation was not conducted fairly.

She said Glassberg was never shown the evidence and was only given three minutes at two board meetings to state his case. Because of this, they couldn’t be sure if the board took the time to look at the evidence either. Kathy Rains felt the board should have made a decision based on more than just a recommendation.

Rains felt that by firing Glassberg it would send the wrong message that students will not be punished for disruptive behavior and teachers are the ones to be disciplined.

“Without having the opportunity to see the investigation we are left to assume that their decision was based on an easy way out of a sensitive situation, rather than dealing with a disruptive student,” Kathy Rains said.  “Nobody wins with an outcome like this.”