It's no secret that middle school can be a challenging time for countless young people, and the small gap between childhood and adolescence often comes with some deeply awkward experiences. But the least schools can do is to not add to that discomfort, right? Well, from the sounds of things, that's not what happened at a middle school in Channelview, Texas, this week ― according to a report from The Washington Post, a school gave a "most likely to become a terrorist" award to a teenage girl on Tuesday, something that was apparently intended to be a joke.
Needless to say, it wasn't funny, nor was it well-received by the girl in question and her mother. According to the report, Lizeth Villanueva was just one of the students who received inappropriate end-of-year titles from the faculty ― another girl was named "most likely to cry over every little thing," while a boy was named "most likely to become homeless."
Not exactly a fine-tuned sense of humor, huh? Dubbing a 13-year-old girl a likely future terrorist ― a Salvadoran-American girl to boot, which adds a distinctly racial element to the whole thing ― is a whole new realm of wrong, even amid a collection of wildly inappropriate jokes. According to Villanueva's mother, who commented to The Post, it was in no way funny:
I was upset and very mad when I saw the award. I was surprised because my daughter has been doing well in the honors program.
The Channelview Independent School District released a statement to Houston area ABC News affiliated KHOU, apologizing for the incident and saying the faculty involved have both been disciplined, and are under further investigation:
The Channelview ISD Administration would like to apologize for the insensitive and offensive fake mock awards that were given to students in a classroom. Channelview ISD would like to assure all students, parents and community members that these award statements and ideals are not representative of the district’s vision, mission and educational goals for our students. The teachers involved in this matter have been disciplined according to district policy and the incident is still under investigation.
According to the Washington Post report, Villanueva hasn't been back to school since the incident because she "feels uncomfortable," something that's very easy to understand. The teachers who handed out the mock awards reportedly laughed when she received hers, and if that's true, it makes for a pretty grim scene ― authority figures and caretakers laughing as they label a teenage girl of color a potential future terrorist. Hopefully, Villanueva will be able to feel welcome and comfortable at school again sometime soon, but it'd make total sense if that takes a while.