Aliso Principal Veronica Gallardo | Credit: Courtesy

Parents at Aliso Elementary School in Carpinteria have taken issue with Aliso Principal Veronica Gallardo, following an incident in a 5th-grade classroom where a teacher’s aide allegedly grabbed a student by the collar after the student was being disruptive. 

Gallardo, who has also been a trustee at Santa Barbara City College since 2012, is no stranger to criticism, and this incident is one of many that the group Parents for Aliso (PFA) has brought to the Carpinteria Unified School Board in hopes of encouraging transparency. “She’s not a good fit for the Carpinteria elementary,” said Monica Solorzano, co-president of PFA. “That campus climate has changed dramatically.”

The incident occurred on February 1, when the 5th-grade class was about to begin their theater lesson, and a group of kids came in playing with a balloon. A student kicked the balloon, and his shoe slipped off and hit the theater teacher. Teacher’s aide Eric Gregg then allegedly grabbed the student by the collar and took him out of the room. The boy’s mother, Jorrie Collier, said she has spoken to at least three other parents of children present during this incident, and all three kids claimed to see Gregg grab the student by the collar in a manner similar to choking.

After the incident, the boy was sent home with no explanation until Collier filed a formal complaint requesting Gallardo investigate. In her response, Gallardo described the events similarly but framed the incident around “students ignoring the directives of the adults.” Gallardo also said she interviewed all adults present and determined the physical contact was justified, though she denied that Gregg grabbed the student by the collar. She stated Gregg intervened in a “dangerous situation.”

In a message to parents on ParentSquare about the situation, Gallardo wrote: “There were [sic] a small group of students whose behavior disrupted instruction to a point where instruction could no longer be implemented effectively. The students whose disruptive behavior caused the cancellation of the remainder of the theater class were separated from the rest of the class for the remainder of the day.”

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Gallardo did respond to the initial request for comment, explaining the situation was resolved according to the Carpinteria Unified School District policies. However, she did not confirm whether the incident was reported to local authorities, as is stipulated in the district policies regarding child abuse.

Parents for Aliso wrote a letter detailing the incident, and other issues with Gallardo, on February 3 and read the letter during the Carpinteria Unified School District meeting on February 8. The letter describes Gallardo’s lack of response to the parents’ concern regarding the 5th-grade class, which has spent the past four weeks with a string of substitute teachers and teacher’s aides.

The letter also includes notes from a Zoom meeting between eight parents, two teachers, and Gallardo, in which Gallardo refuses to address the incident in detail, citing “student privacy.” She only said that the teachers described the situation differently. “While we want to validate the environment that the children observed,” Gallardo said, “that is not what the teachers communicated.”

Collier said she had never had problems with her son misbehaving prior to this incident, and she was upset that her son was sent home early on February 1 and the next day without explanation. The morning after the February 1 incident, Collier received a call from the school saying her son was being sent home for the whole day. When she called for an explanation, she was informed by office staff that Gallardo sent him home for “being disrespectful.” Gallardo was not present when he was picked up from school and did not return Collier’s calls until later.

“She never told me why he was sent home. They just told me he was being disrespectful,” Collier said. The family filed a police report last Thursday, and officers are still interviewing all parties involved before pressing charges. 

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