Students Rally In the Aftermath of Controversial Comments
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Controversial racial comments made by West Principal, Frank Calarco last week Friday April 22nd, lead to a student demonstration held earlier today in the West Learning Center.
Senior Thomas Leonard says that last Friday, Calarco came into his second hour class and asked that, “Someone tell this kid that it’s not the 1960s anymore and black kids don’t have to sit in the back anymore.”
Principal Calarco sent out an email to the students of Wauwatosa West explaining what happened during his visit to the classroom. The email further upset Leonard, and many of his fellow classmates.
Following the email, Leonard put together the rally in order to tell Calarco how his words had hurt not only himself, but the entire West community.
“It’s not a black or white thing. It’s a human thing,” said Leonard to the gathered students in the Learning Center.
Calarco’s comment and email sparked heavy criticism from students at Wauwatosa West and many skipped their second hour class in order to come and support Leonard and voice their frustration at Calarco during the demonstration today.
“This is not the first time that this [racial comments] has happened. But this is the first time we all stood dup. I feel administration is a coward,” said one West student after Leonard finished talking and the rally was winding down.
“I came for justice,” said another student.
Leonard is calling for Calarco to take responsibility for his actions, stating amongst cheers and applause during the rally, “what we need to do now is inform our parents, and our parents need to call the district, and our parents need to call the school and make sure that Mr. Calarco is held accountable.”
Calarco did not address the students during the rally, however did come and speak to some of the students who stayed behind after the rally finished, pulling them into the auditorium in order to share his feelings and opinions on what had occurred, while also answering any questions that the students had. It became clear during the meeting that students wanted an apology above anything else from their principal.
Until this point Calarco had not issued a formal apology for what occurred, but around 11:00am he issued such an apology to the student body over the announcement system.
Students appreciated the apology but some still had their doubts as to its sincerity.
“I appreciate the fact that he did it, but it’s kind of hard to tell whether he only did it cause we wanted him to and was forced to, or because he genuinely felt bad,” said one West student following the apology Calarco issued.
Administration was not open for questioning during the day but Wauwatosa Superintendent Dr. Phil Ertl issued the official statement from the district quoted below.
“Last week, Frank Calarco, principal of Wauwatosa West High School, made a racial comment to a class of students. The statement, while not intending to be harmful, was insensitive and inappropriate. Mr. Calarco apologized to students on Friday and again (Monday). (On Monday) morning I joined some other district staff, including the district’s Supervisor of Equity and Student Services, to listen to students who are understandably upset about this situation.
In the Wauwatosa Schools, we have gone to great lengths to address issues of race and ethnicity in a thoughtful and straightforward manner and to open dialogue about race. It is clear that much work remains.
Just as Principal Calarco has apologized, I, too, want to offer students and families my heartfelt apology for this situation. As a school district, our focus is on creating a safe and inviting school environment for all students. These comments moved us away from that goal.
I am very sorry.
In the short term, I welcome any student, parent or community member who would like to discuss this matter to contact me directly. I want to ensure that you are heard, and I want the opportunity to apologize to you directly.
In the longer term, I believe that we must continue to make sure all students feel like our schools belong to each and every one of them. I am committed to making sure the Wauwatosa School District is the best place for all students to learn. Again, on behalf of the Wauwatosa Schools, I am very sorry for this situation.”