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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Native Girl in Wisconsin singled out in Catholic School

By Suzanne MacNevin - Chemistry Teacher.

RELIGION - Catholic schools are not exactly known for their tolerance and understanding, especially with respect to women and other cultures. As someone who has taught previously at Catholic schools I have a voice on this topic.

In January Grade 7 student Miranda Washinawatok, who will turn 13 at the end of March, was teaching her friends how to say several phrases in her native tongue Menominee. Miranda lives in Shawno in northeastern Wisconsin, just south of the Menominee Indian Reservation. (You would think people there would be used to hearing the language.)

Three little phrases in particular: I love you, hello, and thank you.

Nothing complex and completely innocent.

She spoke the words in Menominee and then translated for her friends.

However Miranda Washinawatok was reprimanded for speaking in Menominee by her teacher, Julie Gurta, who slammed her hands down on her desk and said she wasn’t supposed to be speaking Menominee because how would she know if Miranda was saying something bad.

Julie Gurta then reportedly asked Miranda: How would you like it if I spoke Polish and you didn’t understand?

During the next class Miranda was singled out and intimidated by the teacher who had apparently heard of the incident. Later the same day Miranda was benched rather than playing in that night’s parent recognition basketball game. When her mother picked her up after practice, Miranda told her mother she had been benched “for attitude issues.”

But when her mother, Tanaes Washinawatok, investigated school officials would not explain why her daughter wasn’t allowed to play in the game. None of them would give a straight answer and kept passing the buck.

The head coach claims he didn’t know anything about the decision to bench Miranda, and he should know, he is the coach. Neither did the assistant coach, the teacher and the principal would say who made the decision to punish the student.

“I was disappointed the faculty wouldn’t give me clear answers and kept passing the blame back and forth,” says Tanaes Washinawatok.

After the incident Washinawatok and a family elder, Richie Plass, who works across the United States on issues of racism, stereotyping and intolerance, met with school officials and representatives from the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay.

Plass well knows the sting of racism and is a veritable expert on the topic. In 1968 he was president of the senior class at his high school in 1968 when the principal asked him to be the mascot for the Shawno Indians basketball team. The memory of being a mascot still haunts him. “There is no honour at being laughed at, having food thrown at you and spat at,” he says.

“What’s become apparent to a lot of people in the diocese and the decision-makers especially is how much their staff and people flat-out don’t know when it comes to our culture. With this issue — and we don’t know what happened before now — to me I don’t think it was racist. I think it was ignorance. It’s ignorance and a form of intolerance,” says Plass.

The Diocese of Green Bay is now in full blown damage control and claims it now plans to begin a cultural and educational sensitivity training program about the native nations within the diocese later in 2012.

Julie Gurta, director of education Dr. Joseph Bound, assistant girls’ basketball coach Billie Jo DeQuaine and principal Dan Minter were all asked to write letters of apology.

The letters from the coach, principal and director were deeply apologetic, asking for the family’s forgiveness.

But Julie Gurta's letter wasn't really an apology, but instead blamed everything on Miranda and tried to justify her actions.

Gurta wrote: “In an academic setting, a student must be respectful of all of the other students — language and behaviour that creates a possibility of elitism, or simply excludes other students, can create or increase racial and cultural tensions ... My firm reactions to the behaviours of Miranda and the other two girls were not to single out Miranda or her Native language. Rather, disciplinary actions were taken in response to the disrespectful comments and behaviours exhibited by Miranda over the course of the entire day. Unfortunately, the actions of your daughter were not brought to your attention as quickly as they should have been, and for this I apologize.”

See what I mean? She claims it wasn't brought to her attention? Julie Gurta was the one who did the misdeed! There is nothing wrong with speaking in other languages. Elitism? Pfff. It was cultural elitism which led Julie Gurta to be such an ignorant b*tch in the first place.

Tanaes Washinawatok is now demanding that Julie Gurta be fired for her lack of a sincere and real apology and is asking the director not to renew her contract.

“The teacher’s letter is totally unacceptable,” says Tanaes. “It places blame on Miranda, saying there were several occasions of disrespectfulness and rude behaviour. This was all new to me. She had ample opportunity to notify me that this happened. I feel in this 11th hour, when we’re bringing closure to the incident, she wants to take away from the seriousness of her own actions.”

Claiming bad behaviour on the part of the student after the fact when its the teacher who has been caught doing something wrong just sounds like lies and hogwash to me.

As a chemistry teacher I've been teaching students in Britain and Canada for almost 10 years. If myself or a colleague did something like that our *ss would be out the door so fast it wouldn't be funny.

Principal Minter is refusing to speak to the media on the topic of whether Julie Gurta will be fired.

When I was younger we had a problem with an English teacher once. She slapped a student for misbehaviour.

And by misbehaviour I mean he basically told her to take a hike.

The teacher later tried to apologize for her act and keep her job, but she was gone the very next day. Never to return.

But here is the thing. The student she slapped was Metis (half Native Canadian).

Now does it really matter whether the student was caucasian, Metis, Indian, African, Asian or mixed? No. It doesn't.

Doesn't matter whether the student was male or female either.

The short answer is YOU NEVER HIT A STUDENT.


It is basically an unwritten code and Julie Gurta should know better.

And trying to lie and claim it was the student's fault? Especially when the teachers and staff were running around, passing the buck and changing their stories? That just proves that something wrong went down and they all know it.

Julie Gurta deserves to be fired and never allowed to teach again. End of story.

1 comment:

  1. "Julie Gurta deserves to be fired and never allowed to teach again. End of story."

    Ooh-rah! I can't agree more. How are we supposed to stop peer bullies if we let the teachers bully students?
    Besides, why is learning a new language such a bad thing for kids these days?



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