Dad says he saw coach hit son

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By Don Pace

A parent of a Robertson High School sophomore said he was reluctantly coming before the Las Vegas City Schools board because he had received no answers or satisfaction concerning incidents of violence directed at his son.

Michael Gallegos, a city councilman, told the board that over a month’s time, a group of students were playing pranks by coming to his home, banging on his front door and then speeding away. He said at one point he followed the youths and took down their license plate number and was able to identify them.

Gallegos said working with the police department and parents of the pranksters, the matter seemed to be resolved when the students came to his house and apologized for what they had done.

However, Gallegos said instead of being over, things began to escalate.

“On Friday, Jan. 11, I went to a wrestling practice and coach (Richard) Martinez approached me and told me that my son was going to get into a fight at the end of the day. I was surprised because the kids had gone to the house and told me it was over with and weren’t going to harass my son anymore.”

Gallegos said at the end of the wrestling practice, he went to talk to Martinez, but the coach was busy. In the meantime, a shoving match between Gallegos’ son and another boy began at the other end of the gym. He said when the coaches noticed what was going on, they told the boys to stop.

“At that point, one of the coaches went over to my son, grabbed him by the arms, shook him and slapped him, giving him a bloody nose and cut his lip,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos said later in the evening, Martinez came to his house.

“He said, quote, he’s gone. He did not say he was fired, but he did say he’s gone. Martinez told me, ‘I can’t have a coach doing that to a child.’”

“The following day my son called me after practice and told me that these individuals were outside in the parking lot calling him names, and he was worried about his car. My sister and I drove to the gym to get the car and these kids were still in the parking lot yelling out expletives in front of my sister and I,” Gallegos told the board.

Gallegos said he went to see Superintendent Pete Campos, but was told that he was out, so Associate Superintendent Barbara Perea-Casey set up a meeting that included Principal Richard Lopez, Vice Principal Eddie King, Campos, Perea-Casey, Gallegos and his wife, Sandra. He said he has also met with board members Elaine Luna, Ramon “Swoops” Montao and Philip Leger.

“Since then, my son’s car has been vandalized,” Gallegos said. “One of the comments that was made at the meeting was school officials would keep us informed about the investigation. We realized it was going to take some time for this investigation to unfold, but since Jan. 11, I have not been contacted by anyone from the school district in reference to this matter. When I met with the principal (Lopez) in reference to the car, which was on video, he said nothing could be done because Dr. Campos was at the Legislature and it would have to wait until his return.”

Gallegos said Athletic Director Michael Yara, in what Gallegos called an interrogation, called his son to his office and during that interview, the younger Gallegos was told he was on video shown pushing the other boy during the incident at the gym. Gallegos said his son denies starting the shoving match.

“But if my son did push him, let’s deal with that too, but I was at the gym when that incident happened and I believe my son did not push him (first) when this contract employee — he’s not even a teacher — slapped my son, and I’d like to know what this administration is going to do about it,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos told the board he would prefer to take care of the issue at the school level, but said, “If this body or the administration of Robertson High School doesn’t want to address this issue, then I have no other recourse than to go outside the school to try to deal with this.”

• • •

Board president Elaine Luna told Gallegos that the board was aware of the situation that had occurred with the contractual employee.

“As you may be aware, the board of education is not authorized to deal with personnel matters.”

Gallegos took exception with Luna’s statement.

“It’s also a policy issue because I understand the school has a policy in reference to bullying, so this is not just a personnel matter, it’s also a policy issue which falls under the board’s purview to be able to look at these kinds of things.”

At the beginning of the school year, school board members said they were putting in place a tough anti-bullying policy and spoke of harsh consequences concerning those who victimize others on school grounds.

• • •

Campos told Gallegos and the board that the investigation has been completed and a certified letter had been mailed to Gallegos containing the findings of the investigation from the administration.

However, because Gallegos had not received the letter, Campos said he was going to give him a copy and would welcome ongoing discussion dealing with the mater.

“Madam president, in terms of the individual that is in question, that is a personnel issue, and that is something that at this time I will not share,” Campos said.

Whether the Gallegos incident falls under personnel matters or the anti-bullying policy, the faces of school board members grew darker as the story unfolded and all of them voiced their anger over the way things were handled.

“Regardless of the situation, things need to be addressed in a timely manner, yet here we go again, people having to come to the board of education to get answers,” board member Montao said. “We owe it to our students and our parents to be upfront with them. Regardless if he (Campos) is not here, you are administrators and you have to make those key decisions sometimes — it falls on your shoulders.

“These things shouldn’t have to come up to Dr. Casey or Dr. Campos. I’m sorry it shouldn’t. I would respect you more if you made a decision, even if it backfired on you later,” Montao said. “We need to follow through with this thing. If it’s egg on our face so be it, it is what it is and we can’t control some of the things that go on within our district, but it’s how we deal with those issues. When things take longer to solve than necessary they get blown out of proportion, so now we’re dealing with something that could have been taken care of early on.”

• • •

Board member Philip Leger agreed.

“I was a principal at one time, and there were a lot of times when situations came up at my school, and I was always taught that it’s the job of a principal to handle these situations before they came to the administration or the board and before they escalated into something bigger or more serious,” he said.

Board member Patrick Romero said the school district has policies to address such situations.

“It’s against the law to do that, so I’m sure the principal has investigated it, and I hope the police have investigated and there should be some resolution for Mr. Gallegos,” Romero said. “But the excuse that Dr. Campos is at the Legislature and we can’t take care of it now, well I’m sorry, but that’s why we have principals and associate superintendents to take care of what Mr. Campos is not able to take care of at the time. I’m really disappointed that this wasn’t taken care of immediately.”

Board member Phillip Vigil said he was also angered.

“The fact that as parents you weren’t properly informed really upset me. Administrations should keep parents informed about what’s going on,” he said.

Sandra Gallegos joined husband Michael toward the end of public comment and added her statement. She is a social worker with the state Children, Youth and Families Department.

“I work with children who are abused and neglected, and no child should ever be hurt and for my son to be hurt and for me not be able to protect him after I advocate for kids is a real big shame. We’re not going to be quiet or sit here and not do anything,” Gallegos said.