On Monday, a San Diego State University-affiliated research laboratory sent out multiple emails with a link to a new study it had conducted on hunger and homelessness among community college students across the nation.
The apparent response from one state Department of Education employee: “Go f--- yourself.”
“Obviously, it was pretty shocking,” said J. Luke Wood, a San Diego State University professor and one of the study’s co-authors.
Wood, in fact, thought it was “some sort of horrible auto correct,” so he picked up the phone and called Thomas Pacheco, who works in the state education department’s Charter Schools Division and whose name was in a signature line at the bottom of the email response that included the expletive.
Pacheco’s response, Wood said, was to accuse him of sending spam. Wood said he then explained the report. As Wood did, he said Pacheco responded by saying “blah blah blah blah blah blah” and then hanging up on him.
“I’ve never in my life experienced anything like that … from a professional person,” Wood said.
A call to Pacheco went straight to his voice mail.
Bill Ainsworth, the California Department of Education’s communications director, said in an email that “the California Department of Education has been made aware that a CDE employee has been allegedly sending out inappropriate emails. We are investigating and taking immediate action. These emails in no way reflect the views of the California Department of Education. We expect CDE employees to conduct themselves using the highest professional standards.”
The state Department of Education also addressed the issue on Twitter:
Wood, who is co-director of Community College Equity Assessment Lab, which produced the report, said his lab sent out multiple emails to officials announcing the study and including a link to read it. Pacheco was included, Wood said, because charter school students attend community college.
The report found that one-third of community college students have housing issues and possible homelessness, and 12 percent face hunger problems or don’t know where their next meal will come from. Among black men, the problems are even more pronounced, the study found.
Wood said the purpose of the study was to bring awareness to the issues.
After the response from Pacheco’s email, Wood said he was “hoping it was a mistake, or there would be an apology. We really would have left it there. Our focus is on publicity around these important issues.”
Wood said he hasn’t heard anything official from the state Department of Education.