INGLEWOOD — The principal of Centinela Elementary School has resigned, 2 Urban Girls has learned.
Albert de Leon, who was placed on paid administrative leave by the Inglewood Unified School District in June after making racially insensitive remarks to a school custodian, had returned to his post after the start of the school year.
It is not known when de Leon returned to campus or how long he was on leave.
The school district did not comment on de Leon’s departure and a post on the Centinela Elementary School website Oct. 21 said a message from interim Principal Ugema Hosea, the district’s executive director of elementary education, would be posted soon, but nothing had been posted as of 6 p.m. that day.
De Leon was placed on leave in June after multiple employees complained that he had called an African-American custodian “a monkey,” and had repeatedly used the N-word and other racially insensitive remarks, and had made unwanted advances toward female staff members.
Hedieh Khajavi, the district’s chief human resources officer, sent an email to parents in June informing them that de Leon had been placed on leave, and Hosea was appointed to serve as principal in his absence.
The email did not cite a reason for the district’s action but complaints reviewed by 2UrbanGirls dating back to January revealed why de Leon was placed on leave.
An employee reported that at lunchtime on the school campus sometime after schools were shut down because of the coronavirus, de Leon approached a group of employees having lunch and criticized a black worker for using profanity, even though no students and teachers were on campus.
“Mr. de Leon then proceeded to yell at me disrespectfully and repetitively, calling me the ‘n word’ three or four times,” the unidentified employee said. “When I told him his words were offensive, he responded ‘well you say it’ and then called me the ‘n word’ three or four more times in front of my co-workers.”
De Leon himself reported the incident to district Chief Operating Officer Norberto Perez, telling him he had used the ‘n-word’ but adding that the employees were trying to twist his words around.
“I don’t feel comfortable working with him trying to claim that I am treating him like a slave and saying he was offended that I said the ‘n word,’” de Leon reportedly told Perez.
After the story first appeared on 2UrbanGirls.com, many other employees of the district’s non-certificated staff came forward with additional allegations of county administrator Erika Torres favoring Latino employees while, in their opinion, allowing longtime African-American employees to be pushed out of their jobs.
“Torres and Perez walk around like they own this district,” one employee who asked to remain anonymous said. “[An African-American] custodial supervisor was forced to retire because of Perez disrespecting him and not allowing him to do his job.”
The employee said Perez, who like Torres came to Inglewood from the Los Angeles County Office of Education, is making $165,000 a year, but the district’s classified (non-credentialed) workers haven’t had a cost-of-living raise in many years. The employee also said de Leon has disrespected custodians since he has been at Centinela, harassing some to the point that they want transfers.
Other employees said the district didn’t handle the de Leon situation properly, pointing to an alleged “cover up” to avoid bad publicity about racism and mismanagement plaguing the district. The district is seeking Inglewood voters’ approval of a $240 million construction bond measure on the November ballot to continue its efforts to “fix the schools.”
Another district employee, identified only as C Gomez, said the county administrator Torres is “woefully unqualified for her position and was only appointed because she’s friends with the Hispanic county Superintendent Debra Duardo.
“Torres makes $250,000 a year and has a bunch of people who help her do her job, because she’s unqualified,” Gomez said. “They’re asking to increase your property taxes during a pandemic and the economic suffering of our community. She’s unqualified and out of touch.”
2UrbanGirls reached out to several Inglewood school board members, whom are all African-American, with no response.
Erick Holly, president of the Inglewood chapter of the NAACP, said: “Although there is resolution to this situation, I am disappointed there was not a termination. This type of behavior is not acceptable and should not be allowed by anyone.
“We are at a point in time where we must stand and say ‘no more,’” Holly added. We are all human beings and deserve to be treated equally. I would like to thank 2UrbanGirls for sharing information, not just with our organization but the community at large.
“Dr. Erika Torres stated the district handled the situation but allowed the principal to return to work,” Holly said. “Had this information not come to light, he would still be an employee of Inglewood Unified School District and for that reason we are also calling for the resignation of Dr. Torres.”
The documents 2UrbanGirls were able to review included a large amount of complaints related to de Leon. The district also declined to provide certain records based on attorney-client privilege.
The district released a statement from Torres Oct. 16, prior to de Leon’s resignation, in which she said “the outcomes of employee investigations and any subsequent reprimands are confidential.”
“While such details are not released to the public, please know that we do not tolerate harassment or discrimination in our schools,” Torres added. “All reports of suspected harassment or discrimination by employees and/or students are taken very seriously and investigated immediately in compliance with the governing policies, laws and regulations.”
“This is part of our efforts to address complaints regarding harassment and discrimination. I want to be very clear: We do not tolerate racism amongst our employees, staff, students and/or volunteers or anyone for that matter, and as in this case, we will always take swift action to address complaints of harassment or discrimination,” Torres added.
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood area. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.