• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Negative comments directed toward Hispanic students

In the aftermath of Donald Trump being elected as the next President of the United States last week, administrators at Woodford County High School were informed of negative comments being directed at Hispanic students. "There were a few comments that were reported to us and we dealt with that very strongly," said Principal Rob Akers. Akers said he talked to the entire student body after learning of the verbal harassment directed toward Hispanic students. His message: "Regardless of what goes on in our society, our gold standard of behavior is to treat each person in our building with respect and for every student to be absolutely given the right to come to school free from harassment." Akers also acknowledged to students "the tense time" this country has experienced in the days since Trump's election on Nov. 8, "but inside our building we are always going to value, respect and be kind to each other." After Akers made his announcement to the student body last Thursday, he has not received a complaint about any student being verbally harassed by another student, he said. Akers described the incidents of verbal abuse directed toward Hispanic students as "isolated," involving two or three students who were disciplined for their actions. "We sent a quick message that it was not to be tolerated," said Akers. He described the punishment as being sufficient to deter other students from directing negative comments toward their peers. While wearing a Trump t-shirt is protected as a freedom of speech, Akers, who was interviewed on Monday afternoon, said he did not see any WCHS students wearing those t-shirts last Friday or Monday. "I think that some of that fervor as far as our school has kind of died away," he added. Woodford County Schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said he was not made aware of other incidents of negative comments being directed toward Hispanic students in other schools, "but that doesn't mean it didn't happen in other places." There was one unconfirmed incident of negative comments being directed toward a Hispanic student at an elementary school. "Could it have happened in other places? Yes, it could have, but I think we would've dealt with it in exactly the same way regardless of where it was," said Hawkins. He said such comments are not tolerated. "As a school district, we're about treating everyone with respect," said Hawkins. "We want to follow the golden rule . So I think . you've got to deal with it as an incident that's not okay. But then you also use (these incidents) as an opportunity to teach and reinforce . It's not okay to make those kinds of statements. That's just not acceptable."

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