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A middle school teacher who allegedly told a student, “Go back to Mexico” when he didn’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance was fired. The district is “incredibly proud” of the boy’s bravery.
The substitute teacher at Swegle Elementary School in Salem, Ore., didn’t appreciate that 5th-grade student Steven Zendejas wasn’t reciting the Pledge of Allegiance on Tuesday, Portland news station KATU reports.
“She said, ‘If you don’t want to [recite], go back to Mexico,’ and that got me really depressed,” Steven told KATU.
Steven’s mother Liliana Ruiz tells Yahoo Lifestyle that Steven wasn’t expressing his political views. “My son has special needs and sometimes he gets very quiet,” says Ruiz. “But he does understand right from wrong.”
After the remark, Steven asked to use the bathroom and walked to the vice principal’s office to report the teacher.
Lillian M. Govus, a spokesperson at Salem-Keizer Public Schools, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the teacher, who started working with the school in 2017, was removed from her duties that day and is fired from the district.
“We are incredibly proud of Steven,” Govus tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “As a young person, it’s not easy to stand up to an adult, especially around something as hurtful as racial bias. Steven did the right thing and told adults he knew he could trust, and from there, we were able to do the right thing for our children. We pride ourselves on being a safe and welcoming school district for all students, and what this substitute teacher did is inexcusable and doesn’t align with our values.”
Govus says students stand for the Pledge of Allegiance each morning but are not forced to recite it. “We have a large number of immigrant students, from the Congo, Syria, and Iraq, and we’re committed to respecting people’s differences,” she says. “There’s no reason for a teacher to behave like that.”