VIDEO: Austin middle school students walk out in protest of teacher’s comment

Fulmore Middle School students walk out in protest of teacher's comments on Nov. 15, 2017 (KXAN Viewer Photo)
Fulmore Middle School students walk out in protest of teacher's comments on Nov. 15, 2017 (KXAN Viewer Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An “insensitive statement” made by a Fulmore Middle School teacher prompted students to walk out of school as they chanted, “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here!”

Social media posts by students and family members about the incident claim the teacher told a student to “go back to Mexico” after the student spoke in Spanish. They say Wednesday’s walkout protest was a result of administrators not punishing the staff member. Wednesday evening, the district said the staff member has been placed on administrative leave for her comments made two weeks ago.

In an email to parents, Principal Lisa A. Bush said the teacher made the statement to a student but did not specify what exactly was said. “Comments such as that are not tolerated at any level and appropriate actions were taken,” Bush said.

Video posted online showed students filling the hallways of the school, located at 201 E. Mary St. in south Austin. The Austin Independent School District said several dozen students were involved in the walkout that started at 1:15 p.m. and lasted about 40 minutes — officials say it was “mostly peaceful” and Austin ISD police were called to the school.

“We the students felt that that comment had tones of racism,” 8th grader Jack Waters said. “And for a teacher to tell a student that was downright inappropriate.” Another student, Fidelmar Martinez, said the student involved is from Honduras, not Mexico.

The principal said, after learning about the staff member’s comments, the school’s counseling and administrative team engaged with students in “restorative circles,” designed to give students a chance to voice their concerns and feelings in a non-threatening environment.

“We encourage students that when they hear language that does not align to our school’s vision and values to report it immediately to an adult,” Principal Bush said. “Relaying information on social media may create misguided information.”

The school says it will continue multi-cultural education and training of its staff.

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