Parent blurts out racist comment at school meeting meant to address issues of racism.
A parent in Saline, Michigan, made a racial comment toward another parent at a meeting concerning diversity and acceptance in the school system. The meeting held at Liberty School was being taped and the man’s comment was captured on video.
Adrian Iraola was sharing a story with parents and school administrators about how racism in the school had been affecting his child. He is the father of three former students and owns three Mexican restaurants. He was been in the U.S. for four decades.
“I remember when I went to his bedroom, to say good night, and he was crying because of the abuse that he was enduring in this school system.”
“Then why didn’t you stay in Mexico?” the other man, Tom Burtell, who is white, blurted out. His comment was met with audible gasps from the rest of the crowd.
“You need to leave,” a woman could be heard saying in the video.
“That’s disgusting,” another woman said.
Saline Area Schools Superintendent Scot Graden said in a letter. “An individual in the Saline community made racist remarks at a forum directed at one of the parents in our community. This type of bigotry goes against all of the values and beliefs of our school system. The Saline Board of Education and administration take the issue of student and adult behavior seriously. We are striving to ensure a welcoming, inclusive, and safe environment for all students and families, regardless of their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender identity, or any other identity.”
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss comments made in a social media group in January by some high school students. The forum discussion was considered an “act of racism” by administrators. The students had used the “N-word” and included gorilla emojis in the chat.
“On Monday, January 27, it was brought to the attention of our staff and administration that offensive and inappropriate racist comments using derogatory terms about African Americans were posted on social media by Saline High School students,” Superintendent Scot Graden said in an earlier letter announcing the meeting. “Hate, prejudice and racism have no place in our schools or our community.”
Iraola addressed Burtell’s comment by responding, “He asked me a question…’Why didn’t I stay in Mexico?’ Because this is the greatest country in the world.”
“But you’re complaining about being here,” Burtell fired back. He added he is a victim of racism “all the time.” He said, “Try being white and walk in a black neighborhood. See what happens.”
Tim Burtell, Tom’s son, said the ten children living in their home do not agree with what their father said. He stated, “The only message I want to say is that our family condemns our father’s vile beliefs.”
Brian Wright, who also said his son had been a victim of racist comments, called Burtell’s remarks during the meeting “flat-out racist” and said “they were indicative of what children of color were dealing with every day.”
Wright encouraged other parents to respond to Burtell, saying, “This is not an isolated event. And unfortunately, every time this happens, we treat it as an isolated event. We just had an outburst in here, all right? We all had some type of emotion. Regardless of what side you sit on, myself included, I’m still reeling from that emotion. Hold onto that. Because that’s what the minority kids are experiencing on a weekly basis.”