BY MAIRE O’NEILL
An incident that occurred October 5 following a football game between Los Alamos Middle School and Santa Fe Indian School is causing concern among both parents of Los Alamos School District students and members of the community. Members of the LAMS team reportedly chanted, “Go back to the res” in their locker room following the game.
Sources tell the reporter that LAMS Head Football Coach Pat Brousseau entered the locker room and addressed what he witnessed with the LAMS players. Principal Jill Gonzales, Vice Principal Andy Ainsworth and Brousseau investigated the incident and sent an email to parents of the LAMS team and LAMS staff notifying them of the situation two days later on October 7.
The email noted that an “inappropriate ad offensive racial epithet was chanted in the boys’ locker room after a victory over Santa Fe Indian School. It said after investigation, it was confirmed that the chant happened, and that a large number of LAMS football players participated”.
“We are disheartened and disappointed that our players engaged in this behavior. It is unacceptable and does not represent our Hawk values. Obviously, this will not be tolerated. As such, we will be forfeiting our next game (10/12) as a disciplinary consequence. While we realize not all students participated in the behavior, a large enough number were involved to necessitate a team-wide consequence,” the email said. “As with all discipline at the middle school, we incorporate educational and restorative components. Players will be required to participate in a course that addresses NMAA core values of sportsmanship, respect, integrity, and responsibility. The mandatory instruction will take place on Wednesday, 10/12, after school in Coach Brousseau’s classroom (room 268) from 3:00-4:00 p.m.”
The email was not sent to the remaining parents and students at LAMS. Parents, including LAPS school board members, reported hearing about the incident from their middle school students two days later. In fact it was some 16 days later that LAPS Supt. Jose Delfin sent the following statement to parents and students:
“Recent events have given me a bit of time to reflect on my next steps as the leader of our school district. As a person of color, it pains me to hear about any behaviors that have racist overtones personally and professionally. I will elaborate more in my next newsletter. I sincerely apologize for the thoughtlessness of individuals’ actions that have marginalized any of our students, staff and families – we are better than this Los Alamos!
LAPS does not condone any racist or exclusionary behaviors from students, staff, and our community partners. Furthermore, LAPS is committed to becoming a more welcoming district that is responsive to and inclusive of people that represent all backgrounds and identities. We recognize that when students feel unsafe and unwelcome, learning is unlikely to occur. Our district has made a multi-year commitment to adopting the Safe and Civil Schools framework. This model is designed to support positive school environments through developing personal connections, clear expectations, and inclusive practices. In addition, we will continue to empower students and staff with strategies to intervene and speak up when they encounter behavior that negatively impacts the climate and culture of their school community. Finally, we are dedicated to expanding our skills for holding crucial conversations and creating safe spaces for dialogue about inherent bias and racism. At this point in our society, we need to bind together in turbulent times and not fragment the delicate interdependence we have for each other.
Resources for parents:
Resource for students/schools:
Several parents and some LAPS staff have expressed frustration that there was no official statement by the district until October 21, either in a school-wide email, the LAPS Delfin newsletter or a news release to local press. Parents have also told the Reporter that lack of response by LAPS officials is a slap in the face to Native students, employees, families and friends. One parent wrote to the school board that “squeezing an Anti-Racism Anti-Oppression Hotline in the middle of the most recent newsletter does absolutely nothing to address the issue at hand”.
The Reporter reached out to Supt. Delfin and Board President Melanie Colgan Saturday. Delfin sent the October 21 newsletter in response with a comment the details of the District’s anti-racism efforts within the auspices of protecting minors cannot be disclosed.
“Please know that we do not condone any exclusionary or racist behaviors at LAPS,” he said.
Colgan, who was out of town, agreed to chat with the Reporter on her return.
Sadly, the October 7 incident is not the only one of late involving LAPS. There are reports that at a recent volleyball game at Griffith Gym, a section of spectators were removed from the game by LAHS administration after they donned what are called “wife beater” (or tank tops) with bandanas.
Watch the Los Alamos Reporter for more on this ongoing story.