Thursday, August 30, 2007

'White power' chanted during immigration discussion at school

Written by: Jeffrey Wolf, Web Producer
and Nelson Garcia, Reporter

BROOMFIELD – It started with a simple question and ended with at least one student chanting "white power" in a classroom.

It happened Tuesday in a classroom at Holy Family High School, the Catholic school that sits at the corner of 144th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard in Broomfield.

The classroom discussion started with the question: Why do students need to learn Spanish?

According to the Archdiocese of Denver, the conversation soon became about immigration and it turned ugly.

"It became a heated discussion and some rhetoric was used that was inappropriate for the classroom," said Jeanette DeMelo, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Denver.

At least one e-mail sent to 9NEWS said that at least one student started a chant of "white power" and some said that all Mexicans should go back to Mexico.

"Immigration is an explosive topic right now. It seeped into the classroom," she said.

The Archdiocese says they did not expect something like this to happen in their system, which has embraced its Hispanic students. Archbishop Charles Chaput has come forward several times in support of the Mexican community.

"I think the teacher was a little bit unprepared for that type of discussion in a language classroom," said DeMelo.

The archdiocese says the four students who instigated the whole thing have been talked to and supposedly are remorseful. The Spanish teacher also met with administrators.

An e-mail sent to 9NEWS states the Hispanic students in the class at the time asked to leave, but were forced to stay in the classroom.

Holy Family Principal Sr. Mary Rose Lieb, O.S.F. released a statement on Thursday evening about the incident:

"On Tuesday in a Spanish-language class at Holy Family High School, a single handful of students used heated and inappropriate rhetoric in a discussion on immigration. In a class of approximately 30 students, fewer than six students voiced strong anti-immigration opinions. The remaining two-thirds of the class were silent or voiced support for immigrants. At the end of the discussion, one student inappropriately said "white power," two or three times. Most of the students in the class did not hear the comments. Contrary to media reports, there were no chants by more than one student. Two students, who were offended, asked to leave the classroom and were given permission to leave. However, the discussion ended when other students realized how these students were affected and all of the students remained until the end of class."

"When the administration received a complaint regarding this discussion, interviews were conducted of the students in the classroom as well as the teacher. The student who acted inappropriately was disciplined and the situation has been addressed with the teacher."

"The administration treated this situation as a teaching moment - an opportunity to reaffirm that respect and charity should be the foundation of every dialogue and encounter with another."

"Holy Family High School is dedicated to being a family - through respect and charity for all its members. It's always had a diverse student body. It values that diversity and strives to be a place of unity and respect for all. The distortion and inaccurate reporting of this situation is hurtful to a community that should be praised for how well they get along in their diversity."

"In all archdiocesan Catholic schools there is ongoing in-services for administrators, teachers and staff on relevant topics such as immigration, historic justice, issues of bullying and respect."

School leaders at Holy Family say their school is all about inclusiveness. It is in the school's motto and in the spirit of their teachings.

"Holy Family is precisely what its name is: a family. And they've always prided themselves on the diversity," said DeMelo.

Holy Family has a large Hispanic population and the archdiocese wants to make sure everyone is comfortable going to school.

"We are seeing the Hispanic population trust in the Catholic school system and in the diversity that exists there," said DeMelo.

Source: 9news


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