Race issues flare up at Chamberlain,SD school
Posted by: "NDN News" tamra@NDNnews.com tamra_ndnnews
Thu Apr 29, 2010 7:59 pm (PDT)
If anyone wants to contact the Superintendant about this issue, here is the
301 East Kellam
Chamberlain, SD 57325
Race issues flare up at Chamberlain school
CHAMBERLAIN --- Racial tensions in the Chamberlain school rose Wednesday
after four students left school because of a controversy surrounding
homemade T-shirts proclaiming "White Pride World Wide."
Superintendent Tim Mitchell said the incident is under investigation by
"There has to be a reason why these kids made these shirts and showed up,"
Mitchell said. "We just don't know what it is yet."
According to published statistics from last year, American Indians make up
approximately 32 percent of the student population in the Chamberlain School
District, compared to the 55 percent of students who are white.
Wednesday, six white high school students arrived at school wearing the
shirts, which also bore a peace sign and the word "Peace" on the front.
It was the backside of the shirts, however, that caused administrators to
intervene. On the back of the shirts was a symbol consisting of a plus sign
in a circle --- often referred to as a sun cross or Odin's cross --- and the
words "White Pride World Wide." The word "cracker," a derogatory slang term
for impoverished white people, was also written on the back of each shirt.
Mitchell said the word "cracker" and the symbol, commonly used by white
supremacists, violated the school's dress code by promoting racial slurs.
The students were asked to remove or change their shirts or be sent home.
While two changed their shirts, the remaining four left school with parental
"The administration has ruled that they broke the dress code and that the
shirts had become disruptions to the school and the learning environment,"
Codie Novotny, a 16-year-old sophomore at Chamberlain High School, was one
of the students who left school Wednesday. She said the shirts were worn in
reaction to accusations by students in the Native American Club that white
students and teachers are racist.
Because Indian students sometimes wear clothing proclaiming "Native Pride,"
Novotny said, it's only fair that white students be allowed to do the same
"We were trying to make a point to the school," Novotny said. "They're
allowed to wear (Native Pride clothing) in school."
The adviser for the Native American Club declined to comment Wednesday.
Novotny admitted that she can understand why the word "cracker" could be
against school policy. Still, she believes that clothing proclaiming "white
pride" should be acceptable.
"I still don't think it's fair," Novotny said.
Mitchell said he hopes something can be learned from the incident.
"Right now, we're trying to figure out why these six students decided to
wear these shirts and if there's some sort of appropriate way that we could
have some sort of dialogue as to what prompted them to do this particular
act," Mitchell said. "Is there something that we need to do in a more
appropriate setting to take a look at why they felt they had to make these
Mitchell said there is a constant effort at the school to make sure students
and faculty are "culturally proficient" at the school.
"We certainly now need to pull everybody together to discuss in a positive
way how we can move forward in a positive direction."