Texas teen Lizeth Villanueva just finished her seventh-grade year at Lance Corporal Anthony Aguirre Junior High in Channelview, Texas. An excellent student and part of an academic honors program, the 13-year-old and her classmates were recently “honored” by a group of teachers as part of an end-of-year mock awards ceremony. Lizeth’s award? The Texas teen’s mock award read “Most Likely To Become A Terrorist,” a distinction her teacher read out loud before handing her her certificate.
“When she said my name I turned around like what, what did she just say? I was very upset. I was mad but didn’t show it.”
As Fox News reported, the awards were handed out the day after the shocking and tragic Manchester bombing. That terror attack, which took place at the end of an Ariana Grande performance, claimed 22 lives.
Needless to say, the Texas teen found nothing about the “Most Likely To Become A Terrorist” award to be humorous or in good taste. And neither did her mother, Ena Hernandez. Hernandez spoke to the media about the offensive mock award, admitting that she was in disbelief that a teacher would somehow find it to be appropriate.
“It is kind of hard to believe somebody would do that.”
The Texas teen wasn’t the only student in her class to receive a questionable mock award during the end of year festivities. Her classmates were honored with such distinctions as “Most Likely To Become Homeless” and “Most Likely To Cry For Every Little Thing.” It’s unknown how the Texas teachers paired each student with their award, or if the certificates were matched with kids at random. Either way, neither Villanueva nor her mother found the situation acceptable.
And neither did Channelview Independent School District. After the news of the “Most Likely To Become A Terrorist” award went viral, the Texas district was quick to publicly apologize for the embarrassing and insulting debacle.
— WTOP (@WTOP) May 26, 2017
“The Channelview ISD Administration would like to apologize for the insensitive and offensive fake mock awards that were given to students in a classroom. Channelview ISD would like to assure all students, parents and community members that these award statements and ideals are not representative of the district’s vision, mission and educational goals for our students.”
Despite the district’s apology, the viral nature of the situation has caused many to turn to social media to share their thoughts on the Texas teen’s mock award. Many have shared their outrage, saying it’s something that never should have happened. Others sided with the teacher, claiming that the teen and those who were offended by the “Most Likely To Become A Terrorist” certificate are putting too much stock into a joke.
@CNN Oh get a sense of humor people.
— Liberal Sanity PRJ (@The_LS_Project) May 26, 2017
— JSchaffer (@jerrys9396) May 26, 2017
@WTOP way to inspire our youth… unreal.
— Jason Morrell (@CNNJason) May 26, 2017
— Cealygrrl (@cealygirl) May 26, 2017
@NYDailyNews Under fire ? She should be fired !
— Miz Val (@vrb1955) May 26, 2017
According to the Channelview Independent School District, the teachers involved in the mock award ceremony have been “disciplined,” and Lizeth Villanueva specifically has been suspended as a result of her participation in the embarrassing situation. The district hasn’t said how long the teacher will be suspended, and Ena Hernandez doesn’t believe that any length of suspension is an adequate punishment for what her daughter’s teacher did. She is calling for the teacher responsible for the “Most Likely To Become A Terrorist” award to be fired.
In fact, Hernandez says that her teen daughter’s principal admitted that other parents had complained about the content of the mock awards.
— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) May 26, 2017
“So far I also know, the principal also mentioned to us that there were other parents complaining about a similar situation, the same thing.”
As off-putting and offensive as the Texas teen’s “Most Likely To Become A Terrorist” award has been to so many people, it’s not the only instance of a teacher handing out a wholly inappropriate mock award to make headlines recently. As the Washington Post reported, an 8th grade Georgia student with ADHD was “honored” with an award for being “Most Likely To Not Pay Attention.”
— Lori A Wilson (@LoriWilsonWSB) May 19, 2017
In that instance, the student’s mother claims that her daughter was “humiliated” by the situation when she was forced to collect the offensive award on stage, in front of her fellow classmates.
“I feel like it was very derogatory. I feel like it was humiliating. My first thought was, I wanted to know how my child felt when she walked across that stage and got that award. I became furious.”
The fallout from the insensitive Georgia award included two teachers who will not be returning to teach for the Rockdale County Public Schools next school year.
What do you think about these mock awards? Is it ever appropriate for a teacher to hand out a certificate labeling a student “Most Likely To Become A Terrorist,” let alone in the immediate aftermath of a shocking and deadly terror attack? Were the Texas teen and her mother correct in calling attention to the situation and demanding that action be taken, or are people overreacting over a harmless joke? Let us know in the comments below.
[Featured Image by THAWIWAT SAE-HENG/Shutterstock]