By Kassidy Arena By Iowa Public Radio
Concerned community members spoke at the Waukee Community School District Board meeting last night about an offensive student presentation.
Five ninth grade students at Waukee’s Timberline School created and presented a PowerPoint last week for their social studies class. In that presentation, they used offensive images and language to describe immigrants in Iowa.
About a dozen people said they, and students, were offended by the presentation and questioned board members about actions to be taken. Some said they weren’t given the opportunity to speak at the meeting.
Nora Morales, a mother of three, is Mexican American. She wiped away tears as she urged the school board to look into the teacher of the class and the students.
“I would really appreciate that something be done. Not only towards the teacher, because this shouldn’t have happened. But some kind of action needs to be taken toward the students because they should get help. They need help because their train of thought is not right,” Morales said.
The school’s principal Adam Shockey released an emailed statement to parents saying an investigation is currently underway into the situation. That statement further clarifies the district does not tolerate hate speech or threatening messages.
Heather Ayala’s children are half Mexican. She saw the presentation on social media, where photos of the presentation went viral throughout Latino communities.
“Once I read them, I was furious. No student in this district or anywhere, should be subject to that kind of hate speech,” Ayala said.
The Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs has called the situation unacceptable. The chair of the commission Caleb Knutson is urging restorative action be taken.
“The Commission wants to be here to help. We want to be here to move forward. What was said, what was shown was unacceptable. Letting the presentation continue was unacceptable. But where’s the restoration? We would like to see clear action done clear policies put in place,” Knutson said. “Because if this happens once, it can happen again. If rules and policies are not in place, teachers will make mistakes again.”
Although due to board meeting regulations, the board members weren’t able to respond, Waukee parent and Mexican immigrant Fabiola Schirrmeister presented a series of questions for the board to consider in instilling restorative justice.
“Why was it taught? Why was this topic discussed in a public school with this type of language? With language, hateful, hate speech, racist, xenophobic,” she listed. “Why are we allowing this to happen?”
Schirrmeister shared with the board she knew of at least two students in the classroom during the presentation with Mexican parents.
Other speakers emphasized how uncomfortable these students must have felt. Brena Corona, a retired teacher, said she would have felt uncomfortable as a Latina. She listed the social studies standards the presentation violated and encouraged the board to look into administration, and further into teachers.