SAN LEANDRO, Calif. - Raucous applause and roars were heard at the San Leandro Unified School District meeting on Tuesday evening. This came just one day after more than 1,000 students walked out of class at San Leandro High School, all in support of one educator: Ronnie Richardson
Up until recently, Richardson and his twin brother Reginald were co-principals at San Leandro High School.
However, Ronald was removed from his position as co-principal of SLHS, and students and staff say they haven't seen him or his brother on campus recently.
Students, staff, parents and even some alumni were on hand at the San Leandro Unified School District board meeting Tuesday to speak out against Richardson's removal and call for transparency.
"We don't know anything, we've been hearing a lot of different allegations across campus. There's been a lot of rumors, and I'm just mainly here to really know the truth," Keyshawn Ward, a senior at SLHS told KTVU.
Erica Viray-Santos has been with SLHS for 16 years, and she's known the Richardson brothers for an even longer period. Viray-Santos says students have come to lean heavily on Richardson and his leadership changed things for the better at SLHS.
"Many of our students feel like he is a father figure, a mentor, an uncle," Viray-Santos said. "I don't think I would have stayed at SLHS if they weren't there."
Public comment drew loud cheers from many in the audience, who held up signs in support of the man they call "Dr.RO"
"In my short five years, I've seen a concerted effort to have them not at the campus anymore because of their restorative justice approach to education," Joya Brandon, and English teacher at SLHS said. Brandon has been a teacher at SLHS for five years.
Some students and staff also shared that losing a Black leader in a district so rife with racial challenges is a big blow.
"San Leandro has a history of being a sundown town.. San Leandro has a history of being called Klan leandro for a reason," Brandon said. Brandon says this is a loss for all students, but some may be losing more than others.
"Unfortunately it leaves students vulnerable, particularly students of color," she told KTVU.
David Mason, a teacher and parent at SLHS, passionately spoke out against Richardson's removal at the board meeting.
"My son is a transgender student, and Dr. RO has provided a safe space not just talking about that, but being about that and helping to be a voice for the voiceless, and that's what hurts," he said.
Mason had a simple request,"If he messed up then he messed up...but please tell us that."
The district provided some answers at the meeting, including a detailed investigation report of their findings. The full report can be seen below:
"The district by law, and by ethical standards, immediately launched an independent examination by an outside investigator into the allegations," said Board President, Peter Oshinski.
Some of the allegations against Richardson included retaliation against a person who submitted a complaint to the district, failure to report a staff member allegedly touching a student inappropriately and failure to keep accurate disciplinary records or removing them altogether.
"The comprehensive inquiry found that a significant number of the allegations were truthful, disturbing and verified," Oshinski announced to the crowd gathered at the meeting.
The district did clarify that it has not terminated Richardson, but officials have removed him from being in a position of authority over other staff members.