Michigan parents were left shocked and outraged after a racist comment was made during a Feb. 3 meeting about diversity and inclusion at Saline Area Schools.
“I went into his bedroom to say goodnight and he was crying because of the abuse he was enduring in this school system,” Iraola said, according to the video.
But a comment from one male Caucasian parent in the crowd led to visible gasps from the room: “Then why didn’t you stay in Mexico?”
“You need to leave!” one parent yelled at the man, while another said, “That is disgusting!”
Brian Wright, whose son was among a group of black football players allegedly subjected to racist comments on Snapchat prior to the meeting, immediately scolded the man for his offensive remark.
“That’s indicative of what our kids are experiencing, comments like that,” Wright said, according to the video. “He’s sharing a story right now, and that’s indicative of what our kids are experiencing.”
Wright later told GMA, “I had a natural reaction to stand up and confront him. But by in large, everyone was supportive. There were lots of tears, lots of remorse, and I think it was an awakening for those people that were unaware that racism exists.”
Several parents showed support to Iraola at the meeting. “You belong here,” one woman told him.
Iraola kept his composure and answered the man’s question, telling the assembled parents, “He asked me a question, why didn’t I stay in Mexico? Because this is the greatest country in the world.”
This led to another outburst from the man, who yelled in the video, “But you’re complaining about being here.”
Iraola eventually handed the mic to the offensive parent, who attempted to defend his comments and the racism occurring at the school.
“It’s not racism all the time. Try being white and walking in a black neighborhood, then see what happens,” he said. “You’re complaining about situations and this incident, where somebody made a little tweet. Nobody is hurt in that, nobody got hurt in that. That was done off-campus, so why does it even concern the school system? Everyone has a right to free speech.”
After the meeting, Iraola told GMA that the offensive comment “felt like an old wound being open.”
“Not just for me, but for my children,” he said.
Scot Garden, superintendent of Saline Area Schools, said in a statement to GMA, “This type of bigotry goes against all of the values and beliefs of our school systems. We have heard and are listening to students, parents, and community members throughout the District. We will continue to listen as we move forward and establish additional actions to support our students.”
After the meeting, a student who claimed his father was the man making the controversial remarks criticized his dad’s offensive question in a Facebook post.
“Today my father asked a deliberately racist question at the Saline Area Schools diversity and inclusion meeting,” the teenager wrote. “His views of hate in no way represent my own. I stand in solidarity with the refugees and immigrants of the world.”