Letter: Support for Malibu High teacher


A (former) Malibu High School student has accused her teacher, Mrs. Jennifer Gonzalez, of inappropriate behavior. While I never considered myself an ardent fan of Mrs. Gonzalez, I find the student’s allegations incredible to believe in a teacher of Mrs. Gonzalez’s ilk, and I find I must speak up. Mrs. Gonzalez demonstrated time and again a generosity of spirit and nurturing concern for her students during the years that my children attended Malibu High School before graduating in 2008.

My family had the not uncommon experience of interacting with Mrs. Gonzalez inside and outside of the classroom. She taught Health Education to both of my children as freshmen, provided guidance and support for the cross country boys and girls teams for the four years that my kids participated, and later she instructed them in 12th grade AP English. Over the years, I recognized that Mrs. Gonzalez combined the rare qualities of a dedicated, committed educator and a caring, supportive, encouraging spirit.

Mrs. Gonzalez exhibited a profound zest for teaching her students. Anyone watching her teach could see that every day Mrs. Gonzalez kept her excitement for teaching her students kindled. She was passionate about teaching, and excited to show her students about learning. That is a rare gift, for even the best educators have doldrums teaching indifferent students or get stale. I never saw another teacher who genuinely enjoyed interacting with and teaching her students. Mrs. Gonzalez exemplified the kind of authentic concern one can only hope for in a high school teacher. She reached out to her students in a way to enrich and better their education.

I remember when my 2nd grade teacher put her arm around me to comfort me. That simple hug on a day I was feeling blue did me a world of good. Nowadays, teachers don’t hug a student for fear of being accused a child molester. I find it sad that an educator like Mrs. Gonzalez is being accused of ill treatment of a student. Is it possible that the student misunderstood Mrs. Gonzalez’s actions and intent?

Is our society now faced with high school teachers afraid to interact, maybe joke with their students for fear of litigation? If anything, this student’s civil lawsuit may chill the synergistic interactions of teachers and students. The friendly banter and camaraderie that beloved teachers like Mrs. Gonzalez enjoy with their high school students is now threatened with litigation. Will teacher-student relationships in the future become more formal, more distant when teachers fear their friendly dialogue and conduct might be misconstrued and possibly face a lawsuit?

I, for one, hope that Mrs. Gonzalez continues to teach for a long time to come.

Sonia Ottusch