Several hundred students staged a raucous protest at Senn High School Wednesday, after a staff member allegedly told a student who was not standing for the national anthem to “go back to your own country.”
That incident allegedly took place at a school assembly in January. Numerous videos obtained by the RogersEdgeReporter from Senn students show students chanting and, in some cases, becoming involved in altercations. One video shows a student backpack being thrown, apparently hitting a staff member.
Attempts to reach Senn Principal Mary Beck Wednesday were unsuccessful. A spokesperson for Chicago Public Schools said the administration is investigating the incident, and supported the students’ peaceful protest.
“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 as a school district,” CPS Press Secretary James Gherardi said in a statement. ” The district is opening an investigation into the alleged actions, and we support the students who have peacefully raised their concerns.”
The two students involved in the alleged January incident, at a Hispanic Heritage Assembly, spoke to Block Club Chicago, and said they felt “disrespected” by the staff member.
The two seniors told Block Club they were sitting while the anthem was being played, and a teacher came up to them and told them to stand or leave, before allegedly telling a student of Hispanic descent to “go back to your country,” the student said.
“I told [the teacher] I was born here, and [the teacher] told me to go somewhere else,’” the student said, according to Block Club Chicago.
The teacher also allegedly asked the second student, who is African American, if she received free lunch at Senn. The teacher told the student she was disrespecting those who died for her right to receive a free lunch, she said, according to Block Club Chicago.
Both students were asked to leave the assembly, the girls told Block Club. The students, who said they aim to be the first in their families to go to college, instead went to work on college applications, they told Block Club Chicago.
Senn Senior Naima Woods, who said she was sitting in the same row as the girls at the January assembly and witnessed the exchange, confirmed this account. She said other people in the row were not standing, but that the staff member approached the two girls at the end of the row. Woods is a former student journalist for RogersEdgeReporter.
Among the social media posts about the event was a post from Chicago Teacher’s Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates.
— #CTUINC (@stacydavisgates) February 12, 2020
According to the Chicago Tribune, a15-year-old Senn High School student was arrested during the protest for shoving a school administrator to the floor.
During a sit-in protest inside the hallway, two female students began fighting, prompting a 55-year-old staff member to try and break it up, said Sgt. Rocco Alioto, a police spokesman told the Tribune. But one of the girls pushed him, causing him to fall to the floor. The girl was arrested and charged as a juvenile with battery, Alioto said.
(John Carpenter, Ana Gore, Arfat Muhammad, Elizabeth Kupchella, and Elvir Mujkanovic contributed to this report.)