N.M. Teacher to Black Student: ‘Santa Is White’

The teacher has been put on paid administrative leave by the school district; the boy’s father wants the teacher fired.

By Albert Lin

N.M. Teacher to Black Student: ‘Santa Is White’The racial identity of Santa Claus remains a contentious topic after a New Mexico high school teacher told a Black ninth-grader that he should not be wearing a Santa hat and beard because “Santa is white.”

School officials announced on Friday that the male teacher, whose identity has not been revealed, had been disciplined for the comments, which came last week on a day that students at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho, N.M., were told they could come to school dressed as Santa, an elf or a reindeer. On Monday, a spokesperson clarified that the teacher had been put on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

The boy’s father, Michael Rougier, told several media outlets that the teacher asked his son, Christopher, “Don’t you know Santa Claus is white? Why are you wearing that?”

Rougier says no one from the school called to notify them of the incident, and that they had to find out from other parents. The teacher has since spoken to Rougier’s wife and apologized. Christopher has been moved to a different classroom at the request of his parents. But Rougier wants stronger action taken.

[The teacher] needs to be fired,” Rougier told KOAT. “For him to make a comment like that, there has to be at a minimum prejudice in him, and we don’t have room for that.”

Kim Vesely of Rio Rancho Public Schools released the following statement to the media: “This situation involves a teacher recently hired by Cleveland High who made—and admits he made—a stupid mistake. The remark was inappropriate and should not have been made. The teacher feels very badly about what occurred. He self-reported the incident to the principal and has apologized to the student and to the student’s parent. Appropriate disciplinary action has been taken.”

Rougier said Christopher, who has autism, has lost his Christmas spirit and was not interested in helping to decorate the family tree on Sunday. “[Santa Claus is] Asian, he’s Mexican, he’s German, whatever country and whatever society that celebrates Christmas like we do. In our family, you got Miss Claus, who is black, and Santa Claus is white. I just want him to be back to the Christopher who was bouncing off the walls about Christmas.”

The incident happened the same week that FOX News Channel host Megyn Kelly made headlines by asserting that “Santa is just white.” Reaction to that statement has been impassioned and widespread.

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  • What an idiot. I hope he does genuinely feel bad. Why would you do that to any kid, especially one with disabilities? Someone who can’t defend himself. That was particularly cruel and totally unnecessary.

  • Denise McDonald

    Can we all just stop! As long as we are always drawing a line between races there will always be problems. This is crazy, it is Christmas and there is Santa Claus. Who cares what color he is! Let the kids enjoy the season and stop making it an issue about race instead of a holiday that should be fun for children of all ages. Even in war they called a cease fire at Christmas!!

    • Luke Visconti

      Only people who feel included have the luxury not to care. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • I don’t think the teacher should be fired for a single comment, if he’s otherwise a good teacher. However, it was a hurtful thing to say. Given the options of dressing as Santa, an elf or a reindeer — and assuming that the teacher thinks the elves are all White, too — could darker-skinned children only come as reindeer? What a grinch!

    • I am questioning grannybunny viewpoint on this a little too!
      It is never appropriate for an individual that works with children to exclude then from any activity they opt to participate in unless it will in some way harm their safety or that of others. The teacher needs a consequence that will force him to evalutate what he may not even be aware exists in him. In an effort to protect this child and other children he should be removed from working directly with those children until he has completed an evaluation.

  • It was, indeed, an insensitive comment. We are allowed to make mistakes without losing our jobs. In the 9th grade, the kid is old enough to know that Santa is mythical and not real. For a teacher to lose his job for an insensitive comment to a student about the race of a figure that they both know is mythical is absurd. The teacher has apologized to the student and has learnt his lesson. Now let him teach.

    • He taught. It was just not what was supposed to be.

      I ciuld care less about a fictional thing. This was more then that.

    • the name of the high school is Cleveland, and is located in Rio Rancho NM. An autistic child, even as a 9th grader, may not know that Santa is fictional. And that is not even the point, even if he knew Santa is a fictional character, why is a grown adult telling kids he shouldn’t be wearing a Santa suit because Santa is white? Does no one else see the racism and prejudice in this comment?

  • Did he also make a comment to the other kids that dressed like elves and reigndeer and ask them why did they dress the way they did?…what an IDIOT! He should get a stronger dicipline than a paid vacation (smirk).

  • This comment is clearly deeper than just about the color of Santa Claus. Viewers of Fox News 24/7 race baiting have been so contaminated that old fashioned racism has resurfaced in the US with a vengeance.

  • The teacher revealed himself. He is unfit to be a teacher. Just think of all the other subtle and not so subtle ways his bias would influence his teaching and interacting with students. He needs to go. I wouldn’t want him teaching anyone’s child.

  • The headline is misleading. The teacher didn’t just say “Santa is white,” but told the kid that he shouldn’t be dressed as Santa, even after the students were asked to come to school “dressed as Santa, an elf or a reindeer.” Two entirely different things; if the teacher wants to maintain that the fictional character of Santa Claus, of European mythology and permanent resident of the North Pole isn’t African (big stretch, I know), the only thing to be offended by would be the idiocy of anybody being offended by it. What actually happened, on the other hand, is pretty pathetic.

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