School Reviewing Rules After Student's Poem Draws Criticism

Oct 10, 2017

A Holyoke, Mass. school says it's reviewing its policies after a student's poetry reading blaming whites for oppression drew criticism online. 

The Springfield Republican reports Holyoke High School sent a letter to families Monday saying some were offended by the Friday performance at an annual event for Latino Heritage Month. The school said the assembly included a number of student presentations.

One student performing at the assembly read a poem that celebrated her Hispanic heritage, but also said whites have oppressed minority groups in America.

Video of the performance was posted online and drew a wave of criticism on social media.

The school's letter says all students have a right to feel welcome and that some of the event's performances "were not subjected to sufficient review." It says school officials will revise procedures "for the review and approval of proposed student presentations."

From the letter:

While some in the audience found the assembly empowering, regrettably, others were offended by portions of the presentation. As a school that emphasizes and is committed to maintaining a culture of respect and tolerance for all, it is important to acknowledge and respond when any member of our school community does not feel welcome. Every student deserves to feel safe and supported at Holyoke High School, regardless of their race, religion, national origin, socio-economic status, gender, gender-identity, sexual orientation, or disability. Students certainly have the right to express their point of view, but it is a school’s responsibility to provide the appropriate guidance, support and context for their message. Additionally, while well- intentioned and consistent with the Holyoke Public Schools’ and Holyoke High School’s commitment to celebrating and encouraging a diverse and inclusive school environment, it is clear that some of the performances were not subjected to sufficient review in advance of the required assembly. For this, we express our regret and take full responsibility.

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse posted a statement on Facebook Monday night. He said love for country "must mean more than to celebrate what is right about it. It must also mean a willingness to see the hard truths of history." Morse's full statement is below.

This report includes information from The Associated Press.