ANTHEM, Ariz. - The principal of Boulder Creek High School in Anthem says a sophomore English teacher will not be disciplined for allowing a hand-written anonymous racist statement to be posted in class as part of a group activity.
The phrase was written by a student in the classroom and stated, "I despise the presence of black people."
It was one of many anonymous confessions posted on the classroom wall by the students who were asked to write down secretly held views or ideas for the purpose of a larger discussion about biases and prejudice. The exercise, held on the last day of the school year, was intended to help students confront racism and overcome judgments they make about others, principal Lauren Sheahan said. The activity was based on the book "PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives."
"My understanding is then there was a class discussion about, ‘wow can you believe that some of those comments came from your colleagues, came from other students in the classroom? What can we do to get that out in the open, to talk about those issues and change those attitudes?'” Sheahan said.
But not everyone saw the exercise as a constructive learning opportunity, especially considering there was just one black student in the class.
The mother of that student lodged a complaint with a Boulder Creek High School vice-principal last week. Pamela Templeton said her daughter was put in a terrible situation.
"I feel sorry for my daughter. She was very upset. It hurt her feelings. It's disheartening that in 2016 these things still go on," Templeton said.
Some parents at the high school who learned about the situation on Wednesday told 12 News they felt it was inappropriate for the teacher to allow a racist comment to be hung on the wall in a classroom of 15-year-old students, no matter the intention of the activity.
Sheahan said the teacher contacted the student's family Wednesday afternoon to discuss the matter. Sheahan said she did not consider the matter an employee disciplinary issue. She said she was not entirely opposed to the teacher conducting the same group exercise in the future.
"My hope is that in the future, the teacher would be very clear about what the purpose of that activity is so that there is a sense of safety and dignity for all of the students in that classroom," Sheahan said.
Late Wednesday night, Templeton said she had spoken with both the teacher and Sheahan.
"Honestly, I'm enraged. We haven't gotten anywhere," Templeton said. "I feel worse than when I talked to the vice-principal last week. At least then he gave the impression they would do something about it. But clearly they are not going to."
Sheahan told 12 News Wednesday night she is "continuing to examine the issue."
"I think Mrs. Templeton is certainly concerned for her daughter and I am as well. We want to do everything we can as a school to make her daughter feel comfortable and address their concerns," Sheahan said.