ACLU puts pressure on APS to address racism after Cibola High incident

KRQE News 13 is learning more about the racist remark and inappropriate actions by an Albuquerque Public Schools teacher over Halloween, as the ACLU calls on the district to address and prevent racism at schools.

“We offer our sincerest apologies to anyone who’s grappling with this incident.” That’s what APS’s communications director told KRQE News 13 earlier this month after an incident at Cibola High School.

That apology, however, was not well received.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, that CHS English teacher was dressed as a ‘voodoo witch’ and cut one of her Native American student’s braid, then called another Native American student a ‘bloody Indian.’

“The way that the family described it to us was that it was truly like going through a nightmare,” Leon Howard, ACLU of New Mexico Legal Director, said.

On Wednesday morning, Howard and his team sent APS officials a letter, which can be read here.

The letter demands that APS make changes to prevent future incidents of racism.

“One way, we believe, that that can happen is if APS institutes cultural competency training for all of its staff,” he said. “Do things like create curriculum that’s aimed at teaching students the harms of racism and anti-oppression measures.”

Howard points to another incident of racism last year at Volcano Vista High School where African American students were targeted in a stunt that involved KKK hoods.

Wednesday, APS told KRQE News 13 via phone that these were two isolated incidents. While the district said it is not minimizing what happened, it did not say it will consider or has plans to implement the ACLU’s requests.

“With APS being the biggest school system in the state, we really want to APS be a leader,” Howard said.

Read the full APS statement in response to the ACLU letter below:

“The teacher involved in this incident was immediately placed on leave once her actions were reported to her supervisors. The teacher remains on leave until the investigation is complete. Until that time this remains a personnel issue.

APS employs more than 14,000 individuals. The unacceptable behavior reported by the Cibola students is specific to one employee. Albuquerque Public Schools strives daily in thousands of classrooms attended by tens of thousands of students, to welcome, respect and nurture all students.

The actions of one do not reflect the values exhibited daily by  thousands of APS employees who  dedicate their careers to the amazing students we serve.

Albuquerque Public Schools  is sensitive to the unique needs of our Native American students, in fact, we have an entire department dedicated to the advancement  of our Native students. APS is also one of the only  school districts in America to offer both Zuni and Navajo language courses in an effort to help preserve the native languages.”

Meanwhile, concerned students, family and community members planned to gather at the APS Board meeting on Wednesday night to voice their concerns about racism within APS during the public comments section.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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