Long-term substitute escorted out of class

Aaron Piecukonis was escorted out of his class last month and has not returned since.


Alexandra Felt

Piekuconis teaching his classroom in January.

On March 3, substitute teacher, Aaron Piecukonis, was escorted out of his first period CP English 12 class and was temporarily replaced by physical education teacher Dede Walker.

His 35 students were given no explanation as to why their substitute teacher, who was replacing Stephanie May while she was on maternity leave, was leaving. Immediately, approximately 15 students went to Granite Bay High School’s administrative offices and filed incident reports to complain about Piecukonis’s disappearance and defend their substitute.

While there has been no official statement issued by administration addressing Piecukonis’s leave, several students said there is some rationale for the action. 

One senior girl said Piecukonis’s classroom management approach included offensive comments, racist microaggressions and a generally disorganized, unmanaged classroom. The student said she filed a report with the GBHS administration on Feb. 22.   

“The incidents kept getting more and more frequent and then towards the end it got really bad,” the senior girl said. “We were talking about the swastika, which was started for educational reasons … then he made a joke about ovens and how Jewish people were burned during the Holocaust.”

Piecukonis began teaching in January and over the next several weeks, students said the state of his classroom quickly deteriorated. Classes would start excessively late, sometimes 40 minutes into the period. The grading policy was irregular, which later had to be fixed by the English department co-coordinators Christy Honeycutt and David Tastor. To some, there was a lack of boundaries.

On what he called “Movie Friday,” he jokingly played the movie “White Chicks” in honor of Black History Month and held up a black power fist.

“He was telling this table group in our class that he would say the N-word regularly in high school with his black friends … because he was accepted in black culture,” the senior girl said. “He seemed fine with that. He didn’t say, ‘That was wrong of me to do.’”

Some students in Piecukonis’s classes have defended his actions. Senior Alexander Griesa said he thinks Piecukonis was removed as a result of drawing a swastika, but Griesa also said he believes it was meant to be educational, showing how the symbol’s connotation has changed since its use as a Buddhist symbol of peace. 

“He became more of a friend, so when I first heard that he was escorted off campus, I went up to the office myself,” Griesa said. “We just developed that good friendship bond. We can have a good time and still pay attention to our school work.”

After Piecukonis was escorted out of the classroom, a video was filmed and posted to social media of Griesa verbally berating a group of students with an offensive slur who he suspected were responsible for the removal of Piecukonis from the class. The senior was held accountable by the administration.

“I did something really stupid that was completely on my end,” Griesa said. “Words just started flowing out, and I was just pissed off.”

Another senior student, Gavin Astle, said that he thinks Piecukonis’ suspension wasn’t handled appropriately.

“I feel that it was handled very abruptly,” Astle said. “When you handle something very abruptly, there’s no reason for looking at different sides of the story and it’s very strange. Mr. P ran a very environmentally friendly class. He was warm-hearted toward anybody, but he also could get things done.”

Like Griesa, Astle said Piecukonis’ treatment of the swastika was purely educational and wasn’t meant to be offensive. He understands how situations like showing “White Chicks” during Black History Month could be harmful, but he said he wishes the administration would have “looked at it longer and actually analyzed the accusations.”

Another senior girl in Piecukonis’s class, who asked to be anonymous, said Piecukonis’ dismissal is justified.

“There was a reason why he got fired,” the senior girl said. “He wasn’t this perfect teacher and I didn’t think (the students) had the right to be that mad. It was just really tense. A lot of people were really upset that he got fired.” 

Honeycutt, the English department co-coordinator, said the situation was handled in a “professional manner.”

Department leaders and other English teachers had contacted Piecukonis several times before his suspension after concerns were raised that the substitute teacher  wasn’t teaching the curriculum as planned by Stephanie May, the regular teacher.

The week following Piecukonis’s departure, former health teacher Terry Stafford became the long-term substitute for the class and will continue to teach until May returns in April. Stafford taught for 20 years at GBHS before retiring at the end of the 2018-19 school year.


Amber Clark, principal of GBHS, did not respond in time for publishing.