UNITED STATES—California High School (CHS) senior Zack Gamble was suspended from school after allegedly exhibiting “aggressive” behavior towards a sociology teacher and the school’s Black Student Union (BSU) President, Alanah Winston. Gamble who has never been suspended, is openly supportive of president-elect Donald Trump—and believes that he was unfairly treated and suspended because of his political views.

On November 9, Gamble approached a Cal High sociology teacher—whom he has known for a year, but never personally had as a teacher, after the school day ended. Around 2:55 p.m., he walked into the classroom—wearing a black and white “Make America Great Again” hat, asking if he could speak to “just her.” The BSU president, was in the room and was never asked to leave, but Gamble’s intentions were to speak to the teacher privately.

Zack Gamble pictured the day of the incident at Cal High.
Zack Gamble pictured the day of the incident at Cal High.

According to an interview with the San Francisco News, Gamble indicated his intentions of the meeting were to discuss an incident that happened on Halloween that unfolded on social media through Snapchat without his knowing. The incident from Halloween—the nature of which has not been confirmed, unknowingly circulated around campus initiating a discussion with the sociology teacher’s students that Gamble says was based on false information. He wanted to talk to the teacher to “set the record straight” and said, “I had no reason to be angry. I wanted to talk to her like an adult.”

The sociology teacher asked him, “So you don’t support free speech?” and he replied that he was a huge supporter of free speech, but was not going to approve false information that “made him look bad.” He believes that the teacher was trying to accuse him of being racist. Gamble recalls that the teacher and student present became argumentative and “hostile” before he was able to fully explain his side of the story saying, “They kept screaming and yelling at me.”

After a few minutes, Gamble recollected that the teacher cut him off to excuse herself saying, “I’ll be right back,” while pulling out her phone and leaving the classroom. During her absence, the BSU president began to argue with Gamble. He stated that she said, “Are you dismissing my feelings?” and he replied, “I’m not here to talk to you. In this situation your feelings are not relevant.”

Gamble stated that she became enraged by this and continued yelling at him. Gamble said, “Please stop yelling at me,” before the teacher returned with two administration members, and a campus police officer. Gamble indicated it was strange that his assigned assistant principal was not brought into the classroom, who he says has “jurisdiction over him.” He felt that the assistant principal would have at least “heard him out.”

According to Gamble, the teacher, one administration member, and Winston began “misconstruing” his words and were “not listening” to what he was trying to explain regarding the Halloween incident (which Zack does not want to be publicly released in order to not incriminate any others involved). He describes the event in the classroom as him playing “verbal Twister.”

Gamble noted eight other people in the classroom including the sociology teacher who said to the officer, “Can you make him leave?” The campus police officer who was standing behind and to the right of Gamble put his right hand over his chest.  “Excuse me,” said Gamble to the officer, who then removed his hand from his chest. He said to the others, “I had come here to have a conversation with you [to the teacher] but obviously that’s not going to happen,” and he left the classroom unassisted. 

He was called into the office to write a statement of the incident a few days before he was pulled out of his math class with a “suspension slip.” The school suspended Gamble on November 16 and he was allowed to return on November 18. He stated that the administration could have taken him out of class at anytime, but instead he was taken out during an “important math test review.” 

When he went into the assistant principal’s office, Gamble asked “under what grounds am I being suspended?” She replied that according to the teacher and the student he was being “aggressive.” He asked for examples which he never received from the assistant principal, but rather recalls her “stammering.” Gamble confirms that no use of profanity, discriminatory insults, or physical harm was used in the entirety of the incident that occurred on campus.

Gamble’s mother was notified the day of suspension and asked for the official written statement that her son had written and signed, but the school refused. His mother, Kelly Gamble, 52, states that she forwarded an email that the San Ramon Valley Unified School District’s (SRVUSD) superintendent Rick Schmidtt had recently sent to all students and parents advocating for a safe environment for critical thinkers and that students need an outlet for their viewpoints. Schmidtt wrote, “the greatest gift we can provide to our children is the gift of advocacy for themselves and others.” Kelly Gamble pleaded for a halt on the suspension until she could meet with the administration in person to no avail. She sent a second email referencing Schmidtt’s email stating, “Causing my son to miss a day of core classes as ‘punishment’ for aggressively arguing his position seems contrary to the educational process and in particular the Superintendent’s message.” Kelly Gamble eventually spoke to the administration but not until after the suspension.

California High School recently had a parent/principal meeting on November 18 where the BSU president briefly mentioned the incident with Gamble and the sociology professor.

“I think that it’s ironic that they [California High School] are constantly vying for a safe space yet if you don’t conform to their ideals then you don’t get the same treatment,” Gamble told the San Francisco News.

The San Francisco News reached out to the BSU president Alanah Winston and California High School, but did not hear back before print.