SALT LAKE CITY -- A woman who says her son is at the center of a racial incident at Alta High School is defending him and says the whole thing is a misunderstanding.
The woman who called into KSL Newsradio's Doug Wright Show Wednesday morning would not give her name. But she said her son just wanted to get up and goof off in front of seniors by wearing all white and a pillowcase on his head. Now it has become a racial issue.
Wouldn't it be great if he and the boy who was offended could have sat down day one and said, 'You hurt me because…' and he could have said, 'I am so sorry. This was not ever in my mind the intention.'
–Accused student's mother
"When he came home and said what it looked like, we were like, 'Oh my gosh, I cannot believe (it). Let's sit down and talk about this.' We opened our dialogue and said this is why these hate symbols are so hurtful."
She said this all took place at a spirit rally at the school, but there were no Hitler references or Hitler salutes, as has been reported. She says it's a good lesson for others to make sure their kids have common sense and know what is offensive to others.
"Wouldn't it be great if he and the boy who was offended could have sat down day one and said, 'You hurt me because…' and he could have said, 'I am so sorry. This was not ever in my mind the intention.'"
She is defending school officials as well.
"When (the principal) found out how it was perceived he immediately called my son down and called me. We talked and the principal goes, "I know you, I know your son, and I know your family. I know this was not meant this way. Having said that, it's still required that we suspend him."
She agreed with the suspension and said her son even did community service instead of sitting at home. At a district hearing yesterday, he agreed to help school officials denounce racism at the school.
"Whether you hurt someone intentionally or unintentionally, you need to be accountable for your actions," the woman said.
Nobody likes to come to school anymore because that's all anybody talks about. We just want to learn and have friends.
–Ashley Anderson, Alta High junior
According to several parents and students, other incidents include an off-campus fight, occasional racial slurs at the school, and a viral text message of a cross burning that has been circulating since the March 18 Spirit Bowl assembly.
As part of the Canyons School District investigation, the superintendent is talking to students in the classroom about identifying and reporting racism, and discrimination.
Over the last week, the issue has gone from emotional to tiresome for many students and parents. Some are concerned about an unfair reputation about their school.
"People are going to start thinking: ‘Well, the school is racist. Maybe I'm racist because I go to that school,'" said Zack Larsen, a junior at Alta High. "I'm not saying it will happen, but I'm saying it could have an effect."
"That's the talk of the school," said Ashley Anderson, also a junior. "Nobody likes to come to school anymore because that's all anybody talks about. We just want to learn and have friends."
Now what many are calling a playful moment at the Spirit Bowl has triggered a larger, potentially more serious investigation into other incidents at Alta High School. The Canyons School District isn't talking about those incidents, at least not yet.