In surveillance footage from the school, a special needs teacher appears to shove her knee into a student’s back.Video provided by Newsy
A Visalia teacher has been arrested after an Instagram video showed her appearing to forcibly chop off at least one student’s hair while belting out the National Anthem in her classroom.
College of the Sequoias police responded Wednesday to a University Preparatory High School classroom after reports of child endangerment involving a teacher and a “pair of scissors,” said Police Chief Kevin Mizner.
Science teacher Margaret Gieszinger, 52, of Exeter, was later arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment. Her bail was set at $100,000.
The arrest followed two videos posted to social media on Wednesday showing a student sitting in a chair at the front of the classroom as the teacher cuts off portions of the student’s hair. She then tosses the chunks of hair behind her.
The Times-Delta has seen both videos but cannot publish them at this time due to copyright concerns.
As the student attempts to get up and walk back to his desk, the teacher says, “You’re not done,” and motions him to sit back down.
She then chops his hair again. He again stands up and moves away from her.
Shortly after, in the video, the teacher calls out other students and then walks over to a female student. The teacher appears to grab a piece of the student’s hair and attempts to cut it.
Other students then begin to scream and run out of the classroom.
The teacher continues to loudly sing as students flee.
“All students are safe,” Principal Eric Thiessen said, Wednesday afternoon. He directed questions to the district.
Lilli Gates, one of Gieszinger’s students, said the incident is out of character for the teacher.
“When everything was going on I was terrified, and I so badly wanted to blame her. I was scared she was going to come back,” Gates said. “What she did to my classmates and I is inexcusable. I am not trying to make excuses for her, I simply ask everyone to reconsider how they view her. She is a loving and kind lady. She is usually all smiles and laughs. This is not the Miss G. we know and love.”
Sara Rocha is a parent of a UPHS junior. Rocha’s daughter is friends with a girl in Gieszinger’s class.
Trouble started on Monday, Rocha said. A test went missing earlier in the week and Gieszinger’s blamed students, she said.
During Monday’s incident, Rocha said Gieszinger made her daughter’s friend cry. Students reached out to administrators, according to Rocha.
“They asked for help from administrators on Monday,” she said, “but were told they had to go back to class.”
A teacher at Hurley Elementary School, Rocha said she is disappointed in the administration’s lack of intervention.
“We have to take it seriously when (students) come to us,” she said. “We absolutely need to listen to kids. This breaks my heart.”
Rocha said UPHS is a “great school” and teachers make an effort to connect with students. But, she feels more could have been done to prevent Wednesday’s incident.
“I’ve always felt safe at UPHS,” she said. “But the fact kids asked for help and didn’t get it makes me really sad.”
According to Commission on Teacher Credentialing, Gieszinger’s credential was suspended in 2007 and 2016. It’s unclear why her credentials were suspended. Each suspension lasted 14 days.
According to Transparent California, a pay and pension online database, Gieszinger was previously employed by Lindsay Unified School District and Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District.
Tulare County Office of Education, which oversees the high school, is also investigating the incident, said Rob Herman, public information officer. The agency declined to comment further.
About 225 students are enrolled in the Tulare County Office of Education high school.
University Prep opened on the COS campus in 2009.