Marist students kneel in “disrespect” as Spanish song played at homecoming dance, Latino classmates say

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Mount Greenwood Marist High School is investigating allegations that students engaged in a racist protest at the school’s prom on Saturday.

Elizabeth Pacheco and Maia Trevino, two 16-year-old juniors, told The Sun-Times on Monday that some of their classmates knelt and made mocking comments about the Mexicans when a disc jockey played a song in Spanish .

“If you love our food, our ethnic fashion and our energy so much… why do you blame us,” Pacheco asked in the caption of an Instagram video showing the incident which had garnered nearly 150,000 views Monday night. “How would you like us to get down on our knees to your country music?” “

Elizabeth Pacheco (left) and Maia Trevino pose in their ball gowns on Saturday, October 9, 2021.
Provided / Elizabeth Pacheco

Earlier on Saturday, Marist beat Montini Catholic High School, 34-0, in their homecoming soccer game. Later that night, hundreds of students attended the dance, which took place on a lot outside the school at 4200 W. 115th St.

About an hour after the dance started, the DJ played a Spanish version of Billy Ray Cyrus’ hit “Achy Breaky Heart”. Pacheco and Trevino, who had not danced, spoke.

But a few dozen of their classmates then knelt in the center of the dance floor, apparently in protest, according to the girls and the video Pacheco posted on Instagram. Pacheco said some students hooted and mocked, while others deliberately disrupted a line dance. Both girls said they overheard a classmate make an apparently racist comment.

“Uh, they’re Mexicans,” recalled the girls, both of Mexican descent.

“I’m trying to understand their point of view,” Pacheco said of his classmates. “But when there’s something wrong that only targets you and your community, it’s really upsetting. I can’t see them the same way anymore.

While Trevino said her family members had warned her of the discrimination they had faced in the past, that realization did not prepare her for Saturday’s jarring incident.

“I never thought that would happen to me one day, especially in a school where I felt safe and appreciated and with friends – whom I considered friends,” she said. “To see them kneel down and disrespect who I am … and the culture I represent … it doesn’t feel good.”

Administrators at the Roman Catholic school did not respond to interview requests. But Marist spokesperson Kristine Kavanagh issued a statement saying that school leaders “are disheartened by the recent events that took place during our Homecoming celebration last weekend.

“Our administrative team, campus ministry members, faculty, and staff will take this time to educate all members of our student body, so that they clearly understand how their actions, even unintentional ones, can be seen as hurtful to them. others. “, the statement read.” We respect and promote diversity, equity and inclusion for all and want every student to succeed by feeling valued, seen and connected.

“As a school, we promote cultural diversity and provide professional development on cultural skills to staff and students. The Marist High School is fully investigating the events and will address them as appropriate. “

On Monday, some sophomores knelt during the homeroom “to show how we are against racism and add [to] fix the problem that occurred, ”according to social media posts.

Principal Meg Dunneback also met Latino students, including Pacheco and Trevino. Both said the incident provides a crucial learning experience for their peers.

“You can say I’m sorry [and] get punished, but then you go home and do the exact same thing, ”Pacheco said. “They have to understand and be educated that it was wrong. I want them to open their hearts to us and our culture.

Pacheco said Saturday’s incident was not the first time that minority students “felt less than themselves.”

Trevino noted that a similar incident occurred on September 15, when predominantly Hispanic kitchen staff began playing music in Spanish to mark the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month. She said some white college students booed, and one mockingly used what she described as a stereotypical Mexican accent.

Although Pacheco and Trevino were not yet students at Marist, they also recalled an incident in which two white students were kicked out in 2016 because of racist text messages shared on social media. The girls’ fathers then sued the school in Cook County court for $ 1 million, although no case has been filed in the case since December 2017.

In January, their lawyer told the Chicago Tribune that the girls had made an agreement with the administrators allowing them to receive their diplomas. At this point, other students involved in the controversy were welcomed back to the school.

Pacheco and Trevino thanked the school leaders for responding quickly to their concerns on Monday while insisting that they were not trying to “hit the Marists”. Pacheco, however, said she feared administrators might try to sweep the issue under the rug to protect the school’s reputation.

“My main intention is to educate students about racism and discrimination. I think it was really disrespectful to our community, ”said Pacheco.


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