A California teacher was arrested Dec. 5 after forcibly cutting a student’s hair while singing the national anthem.
In video of the incident that was posted on Reddit, Margaret Gieszinger, a teacher at University Preparatory High School in Visalia, can be seen calling a male student to the front of the class. She then proceeds to cut off chunks of his hair and fling them backward while singing the national anthem, getting many of the lyrics wrong.
After the male student leaves the chair, she then demands that another student take his place, and says she will pick someone if no one volunteers. She then walks between the desks, grabs a female student by the hair and attempts to cut it, while still singing. The female student can be heard yelling, “No, Ms. G!” and then runs out of the room along with the rest of the class.
Gieszinger, 52, was charged with battery, assault, cruelty to a child, and false imprisonment, according to Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward. She could face up to three and a half years in jail if convicted.
The school’s principal, Eric Thiessen, told BuzzFeed News the teacher was “promptly removed” from the classroom and “will not return.”
Thiessen said the school’s staff and the Tulare County Office of Education are “deeply concerned for the students who were subjected to the disturbing behavior” by Gieszinger. Mental health counselors are being made available to the students.
According to KFSN, the incident occurred during Gieszinger’s first-period chemistry class, where she showed up waving around scissors and saying it was haircut day.
Mark Vogt, the attorney for the 16-year-old male student in the video, told BuzzFeed News the student let the teacher cut his hair because he was worried what would happen to his classmates if no one volunteered.
“He thought, I don’t know what's going on, and it might as well be him because if he doesn’t sit down she’s never going to stop and he’s a little worried what she’s going to do,” said Vogt. “He cooperated to get it over with, in a way.”
Vogt said the student, whose name he declined to release, is “very emotional” over the incident and has not yet returned to school.
An anonymous student said he thought the teacher was kidding at first, but told KFSN he eventually ran to the main office for help.
“We think she’s going to try to be funny and be like, ‘Oh did you really think I was going to cut his hair?’” the student said. “But she did cut a hair off, and she started singing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and she was singing it really loudly as she ceremoniously tossed a chunk of hair behind her.”
The student said Gieszinger also behaved oddly on Monday, yelling at students when an exam went missing.
She was released from jail on her own recognizance Friday, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office told BuzzFeed News. It could not immediately be determined whether she had hired an attorney.
According to documents released by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, Gieszinger’s teacher credential was suspended for two weeks in 2016 due to “immoral or unprofessional conduct.” It was also suspended for a week in 2007 for unknown reasons, Visalia Times Delta reported.
Students told Visalia Times Delta they were shocked by their teacher’s behavior.
“I’m still in shock,” Miguel Godinez said. “I never thought she would do something like this.”
His classmate, Lilli Gates, said the incident was “inexcusable” and left her “terrified.”
“I am not trying to make excuses for her, I simply ask everyone to reconsider how they view her,” Gates said. “She is a loving and kind lady. She is usually all smiles and laughs. This is not the Miss G. we know and love.”
Gieszinger’s husband told Action News he has no idea why she did what she did.
“It’s a shock to me, that’s out of her character. She doesn’t do stuff like that,” he said. “It’s not her. It’s not who she is. So I don’t know what was going on with her. I don’t have any clue as to why she did that.”