New Mexico teacher on leave after telling black student Santa is white

SANTA FE, New Mexico Mon Dec 16, 2013 11:18pm EST

1 of 5. African American Santa Claus Langston Patterson (L), 77, greets four-month-old Raelyn Price as her grandmother Gloria Boissiere looks on, at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza mall in Los Angeles, California, December 16, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

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SANTA FE, New Mexico (Reuters) - A New Mexico high school teacher who questioned an African American student's decision to dress up as Santa Claus on the grounds that the mythical North Pole figure was white has been put on paid administrative leave, an official said on Monday.

Students at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho, just north of Albuquerque, were told last week they could dress up as holiday characters. But when Christopher Rougier, an African American ninth grader, showed up dressed as Santa Claus, he was called out by the teacher.

"Christopher, don't you know Santa Claus is white? Why are you wearing that?" the student's father, Michael Rougier, told local television station KOB, relating what he described as the teacher's remarks.

The boy's father said his son felt ashamed and embarrassed by the remark, which came to light amid an ongoing media spat over Santa's skin color after a Fox anchor asserted last week on the air that Santa Claus was white.

"And by the way, for all of you kids watching at home, Santa just is white, but this person is just arguing maybe we should also have a black Santa," Fox anchor Megyn Kelly said. "But, you know, Santa is what he is."

The remarks by Kelly, which prompted a social media firestorm, came in response to a Slate.com article arguing that Santa should not be defined as a member of a specific race, suggesting he be pictured instead as a penguin.

In the New Mexico incident, a statement released by the school said the teacher involved had made a dumb mistake and had apologized to the family.

"This situation involves a teacher recently hired by Cleveland High who made - and admits he made - a stupid mistake. The remark was inappropriate and should not have been made," said Kim Vesely, Director of Parent, Community, and Staff Engagement for Rio Rancho Public Schools.

Vesely said the teacher, who has not been publicly identified and could thus not be reached for comment, had been put on paid administrative leave. Per his parent's request, the student has been removed from the teacher's class.

Rougier told KOB: "If it's not for parents like me in interracial families to stand up and say it's time to stop this… it's time to stop. I have to fight for my boys."

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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Comments (6)
WhyMeLord wrote:
First, Megyn Kelly makes an absolute fool out of herself, and now this wanna-be teacher compounds the fiasco. Megyn’s excuse might be pure ignorance, but a teacher should know better. However, with the current hiring practices in red-neck states being what it is, what can we expect except a failure of morals and ethics in our schools?
Teachers must set a good example, they must mentor their students in the ways of civilized, respectful citizens; this teacher failed this.

Dec 16, 2013 8:37pm EST  --  Report as abuse
gregbrew56 wrote:
WhyMeLord wrote: “However, with the current hiring practices in red-neck states being what it is, what can we expect except a failure of morals and ethics in our schools?”

Public school teachers are responsible for teaching the curriculum as set out by state educational standards. If parents were doing their jobs, “morals and ethics” would be taught at home.

In addition, if parents don’t like the job that a school district is doing, they should elect new board members by *voting* in local elections.

But then again, it’s easier to complain rather than step up and be responsible as a parent and citizen.

Dec 16, 2013 9:12pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Maxwells wrote:
First the LA Times runs a story of a black Santa in a mall and claims ‘people are flocking’ to the mall to see one of the only black Santa’s in the country. THEN the debate begins on why there are so few ‘black Santa’s’ in the country, and everyone lends their expert advice on how the historic figure was based on a white man known as St. Nicholas and has been characterized as a white man ever since, then some argue that Nicholas was actually black because he was from Turkey or Greece. It just gets more and more ridiculous, if Christmas wasn’t good enough that some felt the need to create a new holiday for themselves called Kawanza, why can’t they create a new black Kawanza Claus to go with it?

Dec 17, 2013 10:26pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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