A group of Chicago high schoolers staged a sit-in protest on Thursday after a student was allegedly told by a teacher to “go back to your country” when she did not stand during the national anthem.
Four students at Nicholas Senn High School said they all remained seated to protest police brutality during a Hispanic Heritage assembly on Jan. 30 when they heard the teacher make the remark, according to NBC Chicago.
The students say that the comment was directed at, Yesica Salazar, 17, as two teachers came and told them that if they did not stand, they would have to leave. One teacher allegedly asked another student Tionda Cobb, 18, if she was eligible for the Chicago Public Schools free lunch program. When she replied that she was, he told her she should stand because people had died for the country, Salazar told the Chicago Sun-Times in an interview with her and the other students.
Cobb left the auditorium and that teacher then reportedly turned to Salazar and asked her if her legs were broken. She replied “no” then remained silent. That’s when the teacher told her, “I should go back to my own country if I didn’t want to stand,” said Salazar, who was born in the United States. After a verbal exchange, she was told to leave the auditorium.
“I felt very offended because my parents have fought hard to be a part of this country,” Salazar said.
Two other students, Shakira Chacon, 18, and Naima Woods, 18, were present and told the Sun-Times they also exchanged words with the teacher.
“When I heard that, that’s when I jumped in and said, ‘You don’t say that to a student — it’s disrespectful,’ ” said Chacon, a U.S. citizen who immigrated from Costa Rica. She said when she spoke with the teacher later, he apologized but has since denied making the remark. “If he would admit it and apologize ... now I think he should be fired,” she said.
Salazar said that when they met with Mary Beck, the school’s principal, she did not update them on how the incident would be addressed. “I felt like we were getting the run-around,” she said.
But Beck, speaking on the incident in a video posted to Twitter, said that she notified school district officials as soon as she got a report about it.
"I notified everybody within three hours of receiving the report. It is all in writing," she said, speaking to the students. "It is all time-stamped. I did my job. I continue to follow through based on the guidelines and policies that we have in place. Every time."
The students, however, shouted back to her, “so why is he still here?”
Chicago Public Schools has launched an investigation and is looking into the incident, but have not released the teacher’s name. Officials with the district have not said if any action has been taken against him.
"CPS is committed to fostering learning environments that embrace and support all students, and the alleged actions of the teacher in question run counter to our beliefs and priorities,” district spokesman James Gherardi said in a statement.
Photo Credit: Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images