The months of May and June are that special time of year where any student graduating goes through some sort of award ceremony at school. There are ceremonies for academic and athletic awards, and then there are ceremonies for more “fun” awards, like Most Likely To Become President or Most Likely To Become Famous. The latter is a mostly harmless tradition, but this year, a school in Texas took it way too far when a teacher voted one teen student “Most Likely To Become A Terrorist.”
Lizeth Villanueva, a Salvadoran American 13-year-old seventh grader at Anthony Aguirre Junior High School in Texas, was shocked when her teacher handed her the award. She received it during her AVID class, which is an advanced learning program designed to prepare the students for future college courses and careers. Lizeth told KPRC, a local news channel, that, “It was supposed to be a joke.” But when asked by reporters if she found it funny, Lizeth and her mother, Ena Hernandez, understandably said they did not find it funny at all.
Not only was the “joke” done in very poor taste, but Lizeth is a good student who didn’t deserve something like this – she works hard on her schoolwork and has never been in trouble before. Her mother, Ena, spoke to the Washington Post and said, “I was upset and very mad when I saw the award. I was surprised because my daughter has been doing well in the honors program.”
As Lizeth pointed out, this is a particularly terrible time to take terrorism lightly, and to accuse anyone of such a thing. She told reporters, “A terrorist is a really big thing. Just what happened two, three days ago with Ariana Grande and her concert, and they’re joking around with this. It’s not something to joke around with.”
Lizeth wasn’t the only student who got an offensive award. It was part of a “mock award ceremony” including two honors classes and three teachers. One girl received an award for “most likely to cry for every little thing” and one boy was given “most likely to become homeless.” Lizeth said all three teachers laughed as they handed out the awards. If you’re wondering why they were laughing, or how this even happened in the first place, you’re not alone. It’s baffling that a school, especially a middle school, would treat students like this and try to act like it’s light-hearted fun.
The school district has since apologized for the fake ceremony and made a statement to Buzzfeed News saying they “would like to apologize for the insensitive and offensive fake mock awards that were given to students in a classroom.” The statement also said that the teachers responsible “have been disciplined according to district policy.” Although the spokesperson did not provide details on how the discipline was happening, KPRC reported that the family was told the teacher had been suspended for the rest of the year, but weren’t told about what would happen for fall.
The annoying part? Their year ends this week. The teacher has, seemingly, received a slap on the wrist for calling a student a terrorist. It’s never okay to do something like that, especially if you’re in a position of authority, and especially during times like these, where terrorism is a very real threat. As Lizeth’s mother said, “How is she going to feel when she grows up later on?” There was nothing funny about the award or the ceremony, and we can only hope that the school reprimands the teacher in a more fitting way.
What do you think about this award? Is it being taken too seriously or does more need to be done? Share your thoughts in the comments.