Robert Anglen, KPNX-TV (Phoenix), November 27, 2007
A Glendale elementary school principal has admitted to telling a 9-year old boy that it is OK to have racist feelings as long as you keep them to yourself.
“As we said to (the boy) when he was in here, in your heart you may have that feeling, and that is OK if that is your personal belief,” Abraham Lincoln Traditional School Principal Virginia Voinovich said in a tape-recorded parent-teacher conference.
The boy was suspended for three days this month for allegedly committing a “hate crime” by using the expression “brown people.”
In an interview Monday, Voinovich would not address her comments, first saying she didn’t remember the incident, then demanding a copy of the recording and finally insisting that she could not talk about a student’s discipline.
According to school officials, the boy made a statement about “brown people” to another elementary student with whom he was having a conflict. They maintain it was his second offense using the phrase.
But the tape recording indicates this only came out after another parent was allowed to question the boy and elicited from him the statement that he “doesn’t cooperate with brown people.”
After that was reported to the boy’s teacher, he was made to stand in front of his class and publicly confess what he’d said.
The boy maintains that he never said it; that the words were put in his mouth by the parent who questioned him. That parent happens to be the mother of the student with whom he is having a conflict—and she happens to work for Abraham Lincoln as a detention-room officer.
The tape indicates that rather than just spouting off with racial invective, the boy was asked first why he didn’t want to cooperate with brown people by the parent/school official.
Neve said school officials didn’t advise her of the incident until several days after they questioned her son. When Neve objected to the suspension during the conference, Voinovich told her that she didn’t have any rights; that parents give up their rights to discipline when they send a child to school, the tape shows.
Neve insists that her son is not a racist and that he never differentiated a person’s color until the school made it in an issue.
“We were raised to be color blind,” she said. “My children were raised the same way.”
But let’s assume for a minute that the boy actually made the comment. Does this make him a racist and guilty of a hate crime? Or does it make him a confused 9-year-old in need of counseling?