A seventh-grader was presented with an allegedly offensive award by her teachers.
Lizeth Villanueva, 13, was given a "Most Likely To Become A Terrorist" certificate as part of a mock awards ceremony at Anthony Aguirre Junior High School in Houston, Texas, on May 23, reports the Daily Mail.
Lizeth said the incident occurred during her AVID class, which is an advanced learning program to prepare students for college.
The program, which stands for "Advancement Via Individual Determination," is described on its website as "a global nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the achievement gap by preparing all students for college and other postsecondary opportunities." It reportedly serves 1.5 million students, and "trains educators to use proven practices in order to prepare students for success in high school, college, and a career, especially students traditionally underrepresented in higher education."
Lizeth told KHOU that her AVID teacher warned the class in advance that some students might get offended by the awards, but that "she doesn't really care about our feelings."
The teacher thought it was funny, Lizeth said. "It was not a joke. I do not feel comfortable with this ... I do not feel comfortable being in the same classroom with [the teacher]."
Lizeth's mother, Ena Hernandez, said the whole family was hurt by the teacher's actions. "When [Lizeth] first showed me the paper, I'm like, 'What is this?' I read it again, and I'm like, 'What is this?' That's when my daughter told me it was supposed to be a joke. It doesn't look like a joke to me."
Hernandez added: "We're really upset about it coming from a teacher. That program is supposed to be for advanced kids. It is kind of hard to believe that she's doing that. Being a teacher, giving this to a 13-year-old. How is she going to feel when she grows up later on?"
Mock awards similar to the one Lizeth received are a traditional part of school yearbooks. As yearbook publisher SPC notes, "Most likely to" statements are "perfect for a yearbook awards page." Such statements are typically either flattering or insulting, are meant to be humorous, and not intended to be taken seriously. Examples of both types given by SPC include "Most likely to get into Harvard" and "Most likely to lie in an interview."
But it seems that "Most likely to become a terrorist" went a bit too far, resulting in the school to issue an apology:
Aguirre Administration would like to first of all apologize for the insensitive and fake mock awards that were given to students after the official school awards ceremony had concluded. As principal, I want to assure all students, parents, and community members that these award statements and ideals are NOT representative of the Aguirre vision, mission, and educational goals for its students. An investigation will be launched into these events.