Welcome to L.A. TACO’s education column, “The L.A. Public School Report,” made possible by Great Public Schools Now.
On Thursday, November 17, the Long Beach Unified School District confirmed with L.A. TACO that a teacher at Wilson High School was placed on administrative leave following claims that the teacher told students he wanted to shoot them.
This comes after a local business, Mariscos El Garage, brought the accusations to light in an Instagram post. Elsa Barragan, the owner of the business, expressed her concern after her nephew let her know of the teacher's alleged actions.
“My nephew and my son both attend Wilson," Barragan told us over the phone. "The incident happened on Wednesday, Nov. 2nd during my nephew's class. The teacher’s name is Mr. Hamilton.”
In her online post, Barragan explained how her nephew was in class that Wednesday, with everyone working in groups. The teacher in question approached her nephew's group and allegedly told them:
“Man, the school is lucky they don't let me bring in my 9mm Glock or else I would’ve shot four students already.” According to Barragan's nephew, the teacher then pointed at his forehead and continued, saying, “I would’ve shot them right here.”
Barragan said her nephew didn't immediately tell his family about the incident until the school sent out an email about participating in a zoom meeting about awareness called: “If you see something do something.”
On Friday of that same week, Barragan and her family were discussing the email when her nephew disclosed what had happened in school.
“I couldn’t believe it," she told L.A. TACO. “I stayed quiet for a bit because I was trying to process it. I’m a very big advocate for protecting our students and our community, especially with all these school shootings happening. You can never be too safe, so I took it seriously.”
She said her son, who also has a class with the same teacher, had expressed in the past how “something is not right” with this particular teacher, but had never expressed anything alarming. However, after hearing about her nephew's experience and fearing for the students' safety, she decided to email the school.
According to Barragan, she was eventually contacted by the assistant principal, who guaranteed her that a meeting would be held and the issue would be addressed.
“After that, they didn't call me back and the next day my son, who also has this teacher for a different period, told me he didn’t feel comfortable going into his class,” said Barragan.
"I don’t feel safe," he told his mom. To which she said, “Don’t go. Go to the office and I’ll meet you there.”
When Barragan went into the school's office, she was disappointed in what she heard.
“I was basically told that they would need tons of proof to do anything about it because the teacher was part of the union," she recounts. "I left that office feeling like they weren't going to do anything about it, and that’s when I decided to turn to social media for help.”
Three weeks after the incident, she and her nephew decided to post online about his experience. Barragan said she thought long and hard before posting, telling us the last thing she wanted to do was ruin anyone's career or life.
Still, due to a lack of communication from the school, she felt she had no other option. Since then, her post has had over 600 comments, with parents, along with current and past students, disclosing their experiences with the same teacher dating back to 2015.
To her surprise, the accusation of him wanting to bring a gun to school was not the worst part about it. Since her posting, past students have messaged her accusing the teacher of sexual harassment.
“These girls who messaged me wanted to remain anonymous, but they said they complained to the office about the teacher, not only saying inappropriate things to them, but acting inappropriately with female students. And they (the office) would tell these girls ‘well you have no proof’,” Barragan said.
Wilson students now have a page on Instagram in which they urge any student currently enrolled or previously enrolled in the school to come forward about any issues with this teacher. The organizers held a meeting on Thursday during lunch to document students' complaints.
“I also have girls and I cannot imagine anything like this happening to them, and no one believing them. This is something way bigger than I thought,” Barragan said.
According to the Long Beach Post, the school district was made aware of the accusations on Nov. 7 and was said to have quickly taken action shortly thereafter. L.A. TACO did reach out to the school, but no response has been given.
However, Long Beach Unified School District did respond to our request, saying:
“We are aware of a social media post regarding an alleged, inappropriate statement made by a Wilson teacher. We have been in the process of investigating the matter since we learned about it. At this time, the teacher involved has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.”
Due to laws protecting employee confidentiality, the district did not confirm the name of the teacher who is being accused.
Since finding out about this teacher's actions, Barragan's son has not attended the teacher's class out of fear.
“I want him to learn and be in class, but I also want him and all students to feel safe," she said. "School should be a safe space, and having a teacher say those things and be accused of even worse actions is not okay. It’s scary.”
Students, parents, and community members will be holding a rally today at 11 a.m. in front of the school to support those impacted by the teacher.