Southern California

Parents Protest Teacher Put on Leave for Having Gun in Classroom in Inland Empire

What to Know

  • An anatomy teacher brought a gun to school and locked it in a cabinet in his classroom.
  • He is also a reserve officer with Irwindale police, and a survivor of the Route 91 mass shooting in Las Vegas.
  • While he faces no criminal charges, he is on administrative leave.

Parents at an Inland Empire school are protesting the suspension of a popular teacher who brought a gun to school, and had it locked in a cabinet in his classroom.

Joseph Nguyen, who is also a reserve police officer for Irwindale police, is an anatomy teacher at Rancho Cucamonga High School and has taught there since 2004.

Parents rallied with signs Friday morning after learning the teacher was suspended for having a gun locked in a cabinet in his classroom.

Some shouted "protect his job he protects your kids" as they marched for hours during Friday morning drop-offs.

The issue began Tuesday when the school's principal discovered that the gun was on campus.

The campus is a gun-free zone, making it a crime for anyone to have a firearm within 1,000 feet of the school. The San Bernardino Sheriff's Department told school officials however that exceptions can be made for officers, according to a statement by Chaffey Joint Union High School District Superintendent Mathew Holton. Because Nguyen is an officer and has a concealed-weapons permit, he won't face any criminal charges.

"Nonetheless, the District maintains a policy regulation (A.R. 3515.1B) that prohibits any employee, with the exception of the District's Director of Safety and Campus Officers, from bringing firearms onto school premises," the statement reads.

Some parents say that it doesn't matter whether Nguyen is legally allowed to — he shouldn't bring a gun to his classroom, even if its locked up, because a student could possibly get to it.

Others say despite being a teacher, he is a first responder and a survivor of the Route 91 Las Vegas mass shooting. They said they feel safer that he is able to defend students' lives during a crisis.

"I think he should have his job back. He wasn't doing anything wrong. He's a police officer and he has a right to have it on him," said parent Jennifer Luna. "His students feel protected. He's a wonderful man. He's shaped so many lives for so many people. He needs to come back."

Because Nguyen violated school policy, he has been placed on administrative leave, school administrators said.

It's still unclear if or when he will be allowed back on campus.

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