Chicago Public School officials said that a Senn High School teacher, accused of telling a Latina student to “go back to your country” during an assembly last month, has been removed from the classroom as in incident is investigated.
In a letter sent to parents Thursday, Senn Principal Mary Beck said that “new information came to light” as the district’s Office of Student Protections and Title IX opened an investigation, prompting it “to remove this individual from working in our school.”
“At the conclusion of OSP’s investigation, a final determination will be made regarding whether it is appropriate for this individual to return to Senn,” Beck wrote. “I will update the school community when a final determination is made.”
The employee, whose name has been widely circulated by Senn students, both on social media platforms and in protest signs, has been assigned to stay at home with pay pending the outcome of the investigation, district spokesman James Gherardi told the Chicago Tribune.
Several hundred students staged a raucous protest at Senn Wednesday. Videos of the event showed several altercations, and a 15-year-old student was arrested, accused of pushing an administrator to the ground.
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.