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Additional details in UPHS child endangerment case emerge, students claim early warning signs

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Additional details in UPHS child endangerment case emerge, students claim early warning signs

John Dillion, Arts & Entertainment Editor

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Margaret Gieszenger’s hair-cutting incident had warning signs, say students.

“She talked with students about their hair a lot,” said junior Angello Betancourt. “There were some warning signs for sure.”

Megan Lacy, a junior at UPHS shared some interactions she had with Gieszenger about her hair previously.

“She touched my hair at the Veteran’s Day assembly and that was the third time she had talked about it,” said Lacy. “It’s a little concerning that she’s able to work with children this soon after getting her credential suspended. She’s always kind of weirded me out and everyone is freaked out about it.”

Prior to being hired at UPHS, Gieszenger’s credentials were suspended twice: The first suspension occurred in 2007 and lasted for six days while the other suspension happened in 2016 and lasted for twelve days. The 2016 suspension was cited under California Education Code 44421 by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Section 44421 states the Commission can suspend a credential for “immoral or unprofessional conduct, or for persistent defiance of, and refusal to obey, the laws regulating the duties of persons serving in the public school system, or for any cause that would have warranted the denial of an application for a credential or the renewal thereof, or for evident unfitness for service.”

According to students the events on Wednesday were foreshadowed by Giezsinger accusing the class of misplacing a test on Monday.

“She said that we were responsible for the tests she lost even though we turned them in the week before…She seemed very agitated and angry during the whole class,” said Justin Riggins, a student in her Monday class.

Though students were shaken, they did not express animosity toward the school.

“The school did everything they could the best they could,” said junior Emily Kendrick who was in the class when Gieszinger cut the student’s hair.

“I’m not angry at the school. I’m angry at the people who hired her,” said Lilli Gates, a witness to the event.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing Lead Teacher Helen Milliorn-Feller and Principal Eric Thiessen enter the classroom while the students were directed towards the conference room at the back of the office.

In an email on Wednesday, Thiessen assured that action was taken to guarantee the safety of the students.

“Please be assured that the teacher is no longer on campus nor will be returning.  I am currently working with the Tulare County office of Education Human Resources director and the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction regarding the matter,” said Thiessen.

UPHS is also offering counseling for all students free of charge. Classes are expected to run on schedule until the end of the semester.

According to a press release from College of the Sequoias, Gieszenger was arrested later that same day and subsequently booked at the Tulare County Sheriff’s Adult Pre-Trial Facility on one count of child endangerment with bail set at $100,000.

According to ABC 30 News, on Dec. 7, Gieszenger was officially charged with two counts of battery, two counts of willful cruelty to a child, one count of false imprisonment, and one count of assault. She has also since posted bail, but she must stay 100 feet away from UPHS.

The COS Police Department were early responders to the incident on Wednesday.

“We responded to a complaint,” said COS Police Chief Kevin Mizner, “and supported by the video and statements, we believe a crime, or crimes, including child endangerment occurred.”

“Considering she’s currently in jail, I feel safe, ” Emmanuel Sami, a senior in Gieszenger’s class said on Thursday, “but I didn’t feel safe at all when I didn’t know where she was.”

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Additional details in UPHS child endangerment case emerge, students claim early warning signs