Lance Corporal Anthony Aguirre Junior High in Channelview Independent School District is in the news for the most unlikely of reasons. A seventh-grader, 13-year-old Lizeth Villanueva, was handed the “Most Likely to Become a Terrorist” mock award. The teacher may have found the comic relief in the award as the world grapple with terrorism -the parents of the girl did not.
lizeth-villanueva

Lizeth Villanueva

Villanueva was not the only one that got the “insensitive and offensive fake mock award”. Speaking to Fox 26 Houston, Villanueva said, “When she said my name I turned around like what, what did she just say? I was very upset. I was mad but didn’t show it.”

Villanueva was part of an academic honors program in the school. A group of teachers was handing them the certificates as a joke in a mock award ceremony that was held before the summer vacation. In my view, this is a joke gone too far, and the recipients didn’t find it funny either.

 

Terrorism is engulfing most parts of the world.

Terrorism is engulfing most parts of the world.

Terrorism is not a subject to be joked about. Although the teacher mentioned it was a mock award, she failed to recognize the psychological scar she could have left on the young student. Anyone that has seen the carnage perpetrated by terrorists around the globe would never want to be associated with them.

The most unfortunate coincidence was that the mock award was handed out only days after a deadly terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in the United Kingdom, where 22 people were killed in an act of senseless violence. It is easy to imagine the horror that must have gone through Villanueva’s mind as she recalled the terrorist attack and said, “That is not something to joke around with”.

Reacting to the incident, Villanueva’s mom, Ena Hernandez said, “I was surprised because my daughter has been doing well in the honours program,” in her interview with The Washington Post. “It is kind of hard to believe somebody would do that”. Other awards that were given out included “Most Likely to Become Homeless” and “Most Likely to Cry for Every Little Thing”.

Channelview Independent School District (ISD) logo

CISD logo

I must say it is quite commendable that Channelview Independent School District (ISD) was quick to intervene by apologizing to Lizeth Villanueva and suspending the teacher, though I think they need to be more proactive. This mock award was not conceived in a day. The teachers involved must have taken weeks or months to plan for the event. If Channelview ISD had a keen surveillance on the schools under their jurisdiction, this ugly incident could have been averted.

What I find mind-boggling is the criteria that the teacher used to decide who gets which award. Records show that Lizeth Villanueva has never posed any disciplinary problem and has good grades. Her teacher found the award funny and laughed as she signed and handed it over to Villanueva; meanwhile I am left to imagine what was funny about it that made her laugh. I believe if the teacher’s daughter was handed a similar award by another teacher she wouldn’t have found it so funny.

Channelview ISD spokesman, Mark Kramer described the actions of the teachers as a “poor attempt to poke fun that wasn’t well thought out”. I do agree with Kramer. I am forced to wonder if the teachers acted in isolation or they sought the permission of a higher authority in the school -and if they did get permission, the list of those to be punished would have to be widened. The statement released by Channelview ISD read:

“The Channelview ISD Administration would like to apologize for the insensitive and offensive fake mock awards that were given to students in a classroom. Channelview ISD would like to assure all students, parents and community members that these award statements and ideas are not representative of the district’s vision, mission and educational goals for our student. The teachers involved in this matter have been disciplined according to district policy and the incident is still under investigation.”

Source: National Post

It bothers me that Channelview ISD has left no details to the district policy on how the perpetrators were punished. Were they simply suspended or given stiffer punishment to deter others? I would be interested to know how this incident has been resolved.