Marist High School students held a protest outside the school on Oct. 12, three days after they said classmates showed disrespect by kneeling during a Spanish-speaking song during a homecoming dance.
While they acknowledged some students were hurt by the incident, school officials said an investigation found that students kneeled during several songs as a way to urge the DJ to play a different song.
A video of the incident was shared on social media, as several students kneel while the song "Payaso de Rodeo" plays at an Oct. 9 dance for juniors and seniors.
Three days later, dozens of students protested along 115th Street near the school, with signs reading, "Hate has no home here," "Everyone has a culture" and "Celebrate diversity."
They also danced to several songs--including Payaso de Rodeo.
A junior who did not want to be identified said when the song played at the dance, Hispanic students started dancing, but then she saw classmates kneeling and booing.
"It just made me feel really sad," she said. "And it made me feel very unwelcome in a place that I should feel welcome. This is my school. I always know as a minority, at one point, something would happen, but never would I have thought that it would happen in my high school."
Marist officials released a short statement on Oct. 11 saying they were investigating the incident, and the next day--the same day as the protest--they released a lengthier statement outlining their findings.
They said they reviewed the video, as well as interviewed chaperones of the dance.
They said that students showed displeasure for multiple songs by kneeling, crouching down or sitting down.
The DJ company, school officials said, reported that it is common for students to act that way to show they want a new song to be played; the playlist showed that three or four Spanish-speaking songs were played, school officials said, and that students who kneeled during Payaso de Rodeo did not kneel during those songs.
Still, school officials said, they recognize that some students were hurt by the kneeling--and they vowed to address that.
"Marist is a family, and when one of us hurts, we all hurt," they said. "The fact that there were students who left the homecoming dance hurt by what they witnessed shows us that there is work to do."
School officials have not yet returned a message seeking further comment.
At the protest, students carried Mexican flags, both while marching on 115th Street and while driving by the school.
One parent said she would like to see the junior/senior prom canceled.
Marist officials added in their statement that they will focus on creating a welcoming atmosphere.
"It is our responsibility to keep our students safe and foster an environment where all our students are respected--and feel respected," they said. "We will continue to make decisions with this in the forefront of our minds."
Marist's full statement is available here.
A full story will appear in the Oct. 20 issue of The Beverly Review.