Karen Small, the mother of the young Mae’s student at the centre of the recent culture day controversy, has deemed the school’s apology a “good step going forward.”
The Mae’s Schools, following widespread outrage over reports of what many termed “cultural discrimination,” released a statement on Wednesday apologising for the incident, and for the pain and suffering felt by the student as a result.
Protests in the week leading up to the release from the school had called for a public apology from the school’s administration and for sensitisation sessions for the teachers and students. After a meeting with the Amerindian People’s Association on Monday, the school agreed to both terms.
The child remains at the school for now as he is preparing to sit his Grade Four exams. Small admitted that even in the midst of the outrage from citizens over the incident, her son appears to have come out unscathed from the encounter, which she said may be because he did not understand the magnitude of the issue.
She, however, is still coming to grips with what occurred, which she related when asked about their plans for the next culture day activity.
On May 25th, Small made a Facebook post relating that her nine-year-old son had not been allowed to enter his school fully dressed in his Indigenous wear and that staff, including the security guard, teachers, and the headmistress had stated that his attire was inappropriate.
The child wore a skirt made out of tibisiri with underpants. He wore no shirt and sported a beaded chain and a decorated head band.
Small said that the day was going well and her son was very happy dressed in his Amerindian wear as he was on his way to school. However, the boy’s excitement and happiness faded after he was initially not allowed to enter the school’s compound.
After being told by the guard and a teacher that his attire was inappropriate, she said that she put a shirt on her son and left him at school for the day. It was to her surprise that when she went to pick him up from school, he was no longer wearing his Amerindian garb. She said that he related to her that he was teased throughout the day and chose to change.
“The hurtful part was when I picked him up from school and he [had taken off] every single piece of Amerindian wear he had on. This is just wrong. You might as well tell them to wear culture wear except for those from the Amerindians,” the woman added. Small noted that she then took the matter to the head teacher of the school, who also related to her that the way her son was dressed was inappropriate.
The school, in its initial response, had denied that any staff had been engaged on the matter, and said the student had “settled into his classes without incident.” Further, it implied that the child had not adhered to the required mode of dress, as his class reportedly had to portray the Portuguese culture, and students were reportedly told to wear underclothes to prevent exposure.
The school claimed that this was done in an oral briefing leading up to the activity, despite the fact that it had sent out letters to the parents specifying that “pupils will be allowed to dress in their cultural wear, depicting an ethnic group of their choice….” and nothing else.