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‘This is not OK’: School district says substitute teacher involved in altercation will not return

A Lyman Gilmore Middle School substitute teacher involved in an incident last week over a student’s mask, which showed a thin blue line flag pattern, will not be working with the district any longer, administrators said.

“This substitute teacher engaged in a verbal altercation regarding a student mask which caused disruption,” said Grass Valley School District Superintendent Andrew Withers in a statement.

The district “expects all educators to perform their duties with the utmost respect and professionalism,” wrote Withers, adding that that substitute teacher would not be returning to the district as a result.

The student, Lyman Gilmore Middle School eighth grader Lucas Liller, informed his mother, Amanda McCallum, about an “issue with a substitute teacher” on Jan. 31, said McCallum. She added that they began receiving videos of the incident soon afterward, sent to their phones by classmates or by their parents.

Lyman Gilmore Middle School Principal Lisa Lawell had also sent a schoolwide email that day, informing that an incident had taken place and that that substitute teacher would not be returning, said McCallum.

In videos McCallum has shared to her Facebook page, the substitute teacher involved can be heard saying that the thin blue line flag is “not an American flag,” and calling it “the new Confederacy flag,” while some students in the class can be heard voicing their disagreement with him.

Asked what stood out to her about the incident, McCallum said Sunday that it was that the substitute teacher felt comfortable with “just yelling” at her son in those moments.

“It was unprovoked, it was not necessary, and regardless of what actually was on the mask, I think the most important thing for me is the fact that these personal beliefs and opinions, regardless of if it’s religious, political, whatever, do not belong in the classroom,” said McCallum. “That’s not what the classroom is for.”

McCallum stated that her son did not aim to make a political statement by wearing the mask, but rather to show support for his father and step-mother, both of whom work in law enforcement.

She added that the same substitute teacher had led that class for approximately five days prior to last Monday, and that her son had worn the same mask on those days without incident.


McCallum said that she and Lucas’ step-mother visited the school last Tuesday to speak with Lawell, who said “that obviously they support my son, they’re sorry for what happened to him, that they know that it was not OK.”

According to McCallum, Lawell also told them at this meeting that she had “filed a request to blacklist him from teaching at any schools in Nevada County.”

In a conversation with Withers later in the week, McCallum said she learned from him that the district would also be putting a report together to submit at the state level in response to the incident, which may result in the individual no longer being able to work as a substitute teacher statewide.

With regards to the school and district’s response, McCallum said she appreciated their transparency and communication following the incident, but that she still has questions regarding how the substitute teacher had been hired originally.

“Since the fact, they’ve handled it well, in my opinion,” she said. “I just would love if my son could have an apology or that sort of thing.” She added that she has requested someone speak to her son’s class about the incident.

According to McCallum, while Lucas was initially confused, then angry, and afraid he would get in trouble following the incident last week, it has been “eye opening” to see that the situation has actually garnered the opposite response.

McCallum said she has received supportive feedback from a number of people in the community regarding this incident.

“Everyone pretty much agrees — I have friends from all over the spectrum and everyone agrees — that this is not OK in a classroom and a child to have to deal with that and feel like they have to stand up for themselves,” she said.

Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com

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