Teachers Dress Up as Mexicans and Trump's Wall, Face Backlash
School board says the teachers exercised poor judgement during a team building exercise; suspended them with pay.
For Halloween, several teachers at Middleton Elementary School in Canyon County, Idaho, wore red, white and blue, and stood behind a fake brick wall with "Make America Great Again" written on it. Meanwhile, another group wore sombreros, mustaches, and held maracas. Initially posted on the school's Facebook page, outrage among parents forced the post to be removed.
"Hispanic parents, a lot of them and especially non-English speaking parents already feel intimidated going into the school," Juan J. Saldaña from the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs said. "And how does that make students feel? They get it from students, and now they're getting it from teachers, too."
Nampa resident Estefania Mondragon, a member of PODER (Protecting our Dreams and Empowering Resilience) of Idaho, recalled her days as a student in Canyon County where she was told not to speak Spanish in class.
"I thought that era of discrimination had passed," Mondragon told the Idaho Press. "I can't imagine being a student right now and realizing those are elementary school teachers, I am just sickened."
Mondragon created a petition called "No Racism in Middleton School District," demanding the district create environments that "provide awareness and consciousness of systemic racism through culturally relevant curriculum, policy change, review of hiring practices, and district wide training."
Over 10,000 people have signed.
Mondragaon called out in the petition the "dehumanization of Latinx children and the outrageous harm caused by trusted adults that they learn from and look up to."
Middleton's population of 7,500 is 9.5 percent Hispanic, according to 2017 U.S. Census Bureau data. The percentage in the district schools averages about 12.5 percent per school.
Parents with pre-school kids talked about leaving the Middleton school district.
Superintendent Dr. Josh Middleton apologized for the "insensitive actions" and said, "Again, we are better than this."
At an emergency weekend board meeting, some community members said they didn't want the teachers to lose their jobs, and the board chairman, Tim Winkle, said the costumes were part of a team-building exercise during after school hours. The board decided to place the 14 teachers on leave with pay.
The statement from the board said they're taking the situation seriously and that, "This is an unfortunate incident of very poor judgement."
A petition to keep the teachers has over 12,000 signatures, saying the incident has been "blown out of proportion."
The district is planning a cultural awareness and sensitivity training for the entire district on Nov. 7, and increasing the presence of crisis team members and police to provide support. Middleton said training will continue throughout the year and in the future. It's not a "one and done" process.
Rachel Park, mother of a 14-year-old student Shiva Rajbhandari, said, "If they are truly sorry, we need to see a significant change and not just with the teachers… I am shocked that there are people that believe that this would be OK."
Rajbhandari, son of an immigrant dad, who went to Saturday's meeting, said the teachers' actions, "Alienated Latino students. The way that they portrayed their culture made a very political statement, seven days ahead of an election. It was ignorant and there needs to be disciplinary action."
He said they can't let it slide because it affects thousands.
Reader Question: When you have "poor judgement" touted as reasoning, what do you think the school district should do? The parents?
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Mark Allen Barlett defends his use of the N-word: We use it because Black people use it.
Mark Allen Bartlett has a lot of explanations for his actions toward Black teens on MLK Day, but the video shows everything from him threatening to run over one of the protesters with his SUV, to using racial slurs, to pointing a gun at the teenagers.
"I did pull out my gun, but I never pointed it at them," Mark Allen Bartlett said. Video footage shows otherwise.
Mark Allen Bartlett of Hollywood Beach, Fla., pulled a gun on several Black teens, repeatedly calling them the n-word, as they were taking part in a "Bikes Up Guns Down" event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Brickell.
"The Trump administration's cruel obsession with ridding our military of dedicated and capable service members because they happen to be transgender defies reason and cannot survive legal review," Jennifer Levi, of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, said.
Tomi Lahren was not ready for Cardi B.'s smoke.
Update: Student Wearing MAGA Hat Standing Face-to-Face With Native American Veteran Releases Statement
"I was not intentionally making faces at the [protester]," said Nick Sandmann.
UPDATE: Monday, Jan. 21, 2019 at 7 a.m.
Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School Junior who stands in front of Nathan Phillips, an elder with the Omaha tribe and a veteran, in a viral video that has sparked outrage, made a statement through a lawyer and spokesman on Sunday night.
Sandmann said the students decided to raise their voices to drown out the comments against them by four protesters who identify themselves as Black Hebrew Israelites. A video has been released of the incident.
"A student in our group asked one of our teacher chaperones for permission to begin our school spirit chants to counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group," Sandmann said in his statement. "The chants are commonly used at sporting events. They are all positive in nature and sound like what you would hear at any high school," he said.
Phillips walked up to the students and said he started drumming and singing a song to encourage unity trying to quell the argument.
"There was that moment when I realized I've put myself between beast and prey,'' Phillips told the Detroit Free Press. "These young men were beastly and these old Black individuals was their prey, and I stood in between them and so they needed their pounds of flesh and they were looking at me for that.''
But said at one point, he claims the teenagers started saying "Go back to the reservation'' and broke into chants of "Build that wall.'' He also questioned why chaperones did not get involved.
"I was scared," Phillips told CNN. "I don't like the word 'hate.' I don't like even saying it, but it was hate unbridled. It was like a storm."
Sandmann claims he was "not intentionally making faces at the [protester]. I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation."
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington in Kentucky is currently investigating the incident.
ORIGINAL STORY Published Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019
Students wearing "Make America Great Again" hats, who attend Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, K.Y., were in Washington, D.C. on Friday for the anti-abortion March for Life rally. In a video, it appears that Nathan Phillips, an elder with the Omaha tribe and a veteran, was being mocked by the students at the Lincoln Memorial.
The incident occurred as the Indigenous Peoples March was ending. Videos showing their behavior went viral on social media on Saturday.
One of the students, standing less than a foot away, appears to be trying to intimidate Phillips by staring him down with a mocking smirk on his face. Phillips was in the midst of drumming and singing a song of unity:
I've seen that look before — on the MAGA boy's face as he taunts a participant from the Indigenous Peoples March. Fueled by ideology and a desire to dehumanize, it frightens me and reminds me of other cruel youth groups from history.
(anyone know original source of video?) pic.twitter.com/Ka6t5HKmCz
— Melissa Chan (@melissakchan) January 19, 2019
Kaya Taitano, who shot the video, told CNN that MAGA hat-wearing-students and four Black teens, who'd been preaching about the Bible nearby, started yelling and calling each other names. That's why Phillips started drumming and singing a song to encourage unity trying to quell the argument.
President Trump, whom the students apparently idolize, posted a tweet last week to mock Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who plans to run for president in the 2020 election.
Trump made fun of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre in response to a video Warren posted on Instagram.
If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash! pic.twitter.com/D5KWr8EPan
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2019
Phillips, a Vietnam Era veteran who said he served between 1972 and 1976, is in tears as he explains in a video how the incident on Friday made him feel:
"I heard them saying, 'Build that wall, build that wall.' This in indigenous land. You know, we're not supposed to have walls here. We never did …"
He continued, "Before anybody else came here, we never had walls. We never had a prison. We always took care of our elders. We took care of our children. We always provided for them. We taught them right from wrong."
He said he wishes the young men who taunted him would use "that energy to make this country really great."
Thank you to @VinceSchilling of @IndianCountry and many others who identified the proud Native man who is being harassed. He is Mr. Nathan Phillips. I'm reposting this video from “ka_ya11" on IG. This man's words pierce my heart. The grace. The wisdom. The hope. pic.twitter.com/BKOA40SVq5
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) January 19, 2019
Robert "Bob" Rowe is the principal of Covington Catholic High School (email: email@example.com).
An investigation is now taking place, and the MAGA teens could be expelled. The Diocese of Covington and the high school issued the following statement on Saturday:
"We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C. We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church's teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person.
"The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.
"We know this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our most sincere apologies to all those who attended the March and all those who support the pro-life movement."
More than 10,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org demanding changes at the high school.
Many are saying on social media that the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students mimics how whites tried to intimidate Blacks during the civil rights movement:
The MAGA-hat wearing Covington Catholic High School students mocking Elder Nathan Phillips at the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington are direct descendants of the white privilege that empowered white kids to mock Elizabeth Eckford at Little Rock Central High School in 1957. pic.twitter.com/tQroBf6aPb
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) January 19, 2019
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"This is a huge victory for the survivors who came forward, both in 'Surviving R. Kelly' and before, and all young Black women, who are systematically undervalued in our society," said Arisha Hatch of Color of Change.
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