Poly teacher who sparked ‘American Dirt’ backlash placed on leave

A Long Beach Poly High School teacher who sparked backlash against the novel American Dirt and more recently fiercely criticized the school district on social media says she was escorted off campus today.

“I have just been placed on administrative leave for being ‘disruptive,'” Myriam Gurba tweeted to her more than 24,000 followers Friday afternoon.

The Long Beach Unified School District confirmed Gurba was placed on paid leave. In an email Friday afternoon, district spokesman Chris Eftychiou said he could not provide further details because of privacy rules.

“Apparently if I hurt kids, I’m fine on campus, but if I try to protect them I’m a criminal,” Gurba said in an Instagram video, apparently in reference to recent allegations that the district was intimidating students who’d reported accusations that another teacher had used racist language and inappropriately disciplined students.

Gurba has also launched allegations that another teacher sexually assaulted her in 2016, and that the district did nothing. Eftychiou said the allegations “were previously reported to law enforcement and found to be unsubstantiated.”

Gurba spoke out forcefully a week ago against the district and her colleague in the school’s Pacific Rim Academy, Libby Huff, who returned to the classroom after Huff was placed on leave over allegations that she used the N-word toward a student.

Huff was placed on leave again on Feb. 12 after the district received additional complaints from students about her classroom behavior, including that she pulled their hair, their ears and threw pencils and highlighters at them.

Gurba took to Twitter this week after Long Beach police officers arrived on campus to interview students in relation to the allegations against Huff.

“HELP,” she wrote in her first campus tweet on Wednesday. “Scary things are happening at Poly.”

She said authorities were only taking “Black & Brown” students from the classroom, and that they were being interrogated “Central Park 5 style.”

Police and the school district have defended their actions, saying they have treated students with respect and are just trying to get information about the allegations.

“We know that confronting and investigating potential problems has been troubling for some,” Eftychiou said. “For any students who need to talk, we have administrators and counselors who care and are there for you.”

Gurba gained national attention with a scathing take-down of the novel American Dirt, whose author, she said, misrepresented and trivialized the plight of Latin American immigrants.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with more information from the school district.

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