APS Responds to Assaults of Indigenous Students by Teacher

On November 28, 2018, Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) held a District Equity and Inclusion Committee (the committee) meeting to address a recent incident at Cibola High School.

This incident involved a teacher who assaulted two indigenous high school students. This teacher cut one student’s hair and called the other a “bloody Indian” during an in-class Halloween activity.

The meeting was packed with current students, alumni, parents of current students and alumni, and longtime advocates. Thirty people were on the agenda. The committee allotted a mere 60 seconds for each person to speak.

The committee was frowned upon for allotting such a short amount of time to discuss such a deeply-rooted and heinous act against indigenous students. Many speakers noting that the time allotted, especially for the young women assaulted, was a sign of disrespect in approaching the incident. Others called for termination of the teacher who is currently on paid leave.

Longtime advocates emphasized the sacred-nature of hair to indigenous people. They stressed that our hair is an extension of our beings and a part of our personhood as indigenous people that should not be violated. Instead, our personhood as indigenous people should be respected, valued, and honored. Some advocated for ethnic studies to be mandatory in the public education system as well as inclusion of indigenous peoples in post-colonial studies of history.

Many indigenous alumni of APS highlighted while this incident is extreme, this rhetoric is not new or unfamiliar to the committee or to indigenous students. These alumni confronted the committee with the question, “why hasn’t anything been done yet?”

One of the students assaulted noted that her only wish was to learn but she feels isolated in her school environment. She asked the committee why they won’t just let her learn in a peaceful environment.

Other parents shared that they are concerned about their children’s safety. Emphasizing that parents should be able to trust that their children will be safe while attending a public school.

This event was heavy-on-the-heart to attend. As an indigenous student, I have also had to confront instances of racism, ignorance and prejudice from both educators and my peers. The stories and sentiment that the students shared was painfully familiar.

But, as many highlighted at the committee meeting––indigenous people stand together during times like these. The people will not let this incident go unpunished. The people will be heard.

More information about this story can be found here: https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/students-parents-speak-out-against-cibola-high-teacher-racism-incident/1626212604


Raquel Anakalea is a proud citizen of the Bishop Paiute Tribe. She is a second-year law student at UNM.


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