Pasadena City Mayor Victor Gordo responds to San Rafael School principal’s apology


Mayor Victor Gordo, in a statement released late Thursday afternoon, said it was hard for him to accept an elementary school principal’s apology for using offensive language after a longtime janitor at San Rafael Elementary School was briefly handcuffed and detained by police last weekend.

Someone had called the police to say that someone with a backpack had jumped a back fence and gone to school.

In a statement, Mayor Gordo said:

“Principal Ramirez made very derogatory racial remarks that were caught on camera and recorded in a report by the school district’s security officer. He made remarks that were not factual and were inflammatory. As a leader, mentor and supervisor, he is held to a higher standard and should be held accountable for the impact his behavior has caused. A school principal is a leader and educator of educators who ultimately shape the minds and views of our children. Whether  during work hours or responding after hours, his demeanor, professionalism and judgement  should not deviate.”

A security officer with the California Metropolitan Patrol said that Principal Rodolfo Ramirez was angry on Sunday because he had to drive from his home in Arcadia to the school to find out who the janitor was.

Ramirez stated:

“This is fucking bullshit — they should not be handcuffing one of my janitors. I bet if he was white he wouldnt have been treated like that … fuck these nosy ass white neighbors, how about when it was white kids jumping the fence vandalising [sic] classrooms and drawing dicks on the walls and leaving beer cans on the roof, no one calls.”

In an email sent to the San Rafael Elementary School community Thursday morning, Ramirez said he was sorry for what he had said. He wrote:

“In this moment of fear, anger, confusion and pain, I made some offensive and inappropriate comments in the presence of a Metro Patrol Officer who had his body camera on without my knowledge. I am deeply ashamed of the language that I used and some of the things that I said.”

A local person called the police and told them that he saw someone with a backpack climb over a school fence. In a video that came out on Wednesday, you can see police using bolt cutters to get into the campus so they can look into what happened.

The police saw the janitor, whose name has not been made public, almost right away and put him in handcuffs while they figured out who he was. A police source said that the officers did what they usually do.

During the incident, the police were using weapons that shot foam balls instead of bullets.

After Ramirez got there, a firestorm broke out. Superintendent Brian McDonald told the school board in an email that he was very worried about what had happened.

Scott Phelps, who is on the School Board and is from the area where the incident happened, didn’t hold back when he talked about it.

“When will the police ever change their training and tactics?   Let me guess, a wealthy neighbor who like too many residents nearby doesn’t want the public school kids there anyway saw a person of color on the campus?  And the police of course responded the way they do to people of color.  Nothing has really changed in Pasadena has it?”

Cynthia Kurtz, who is the city manager, said that the incident had nothing to do with race. She stated:

“While the caller that initiated the call for service is concerned during the call, the caller is not inflammatory, and there are no racial overtones to the call. The police officers responding to the call found the campus gate was locked, but the door to the school was visibly open.”

Mayor Gordo, in his statement, said race-based denigrating remarks are never appropriate.

“Biased statements directed or intended  to denigrate people based on skin color were wrong in times long past, wrong on Sunday, and will always be wrong. There is no place in our society for these types of statements, and certainly not in Pasadena. These denigrating biased statements made by Principal Ramirez are  offensive, and on behalf of my constituents, I have a difficult time accepting his apology. We will continue our commitment to supporting our school district so they may provide students with the best educational  opportunities possible, as education is the key to stomping out ignorance, hate, and systemic  racism wherever it exists. The answer to past racism is not more racism. We should always  denounce hate and racism whenever and wherever we encounter it.”