San Pasqual High School in Escondido, California is in some hot water for some of their staff’s yearbook photos that were released last Monday. The photos in question are that of their World Language teachers — Adam Bielma, Ramon Jaime, Millie Laurs, Olivia Olalde, Susan Petersen, Carolina Potter, and Cami Smith. The instructors posed for their yearbook pictures at the beginning of the year in attire that is often associated with the people who speak the language they teach. Millie Laurs, who teaches French, poses in a black beret, long gloves, pearls, and sunglasses. Meanwhile, the rest of the bunch, who teach Spanish, are pictured in sombreros, fake mustaches, and ponchos, according to NBC News.
While the photos were taken at the beginning of the year and used for the staff member’s photo IDs throughout the year, they were not released publicly until last week and they ended up causing quite the uproar. Some members of the community felt the costumes the staff members are wearing encourage culturally insensitive and were inappropriate.
SoCal teachers called culturally insensitive for wearing sombreros, mustaches in yearbook photos https://t.co/GDnM457f5H— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) May 23, 2019
By Tuesday, the school district was already apologizing for having allowed the photos to be published. By Wednesday, the school’s principal Martin Casas issued a public statement apologizing to anyone the photos may have offended. While he did say he did not believe the teachers had intended to cause any harm or insult anyone, he condemned the photos and spoke out strongly against cultural appropriation.
“While it is our belief that our World Language meant no ill – will towards anyone. We cannot ignore it. Cultural appropriation is offensive, whether it was intentional or not. We owe an apology to our Latinx and Chicano community, a community that I am part of. It is unacceptable and has no place in our school.”
Nevertheless, not everyone found the photos offensive. Some students and parents felt the community was simply making a big deal over nothing and being overly sensitive.
Merced Juarez is Hispanic and a parent to one of the students from San Pasqual High School. When she saw the photos she wasn’t bothered in the slightest.
“It doesn’t look offensive to me,” she said to reporters.
Juarez went on to speak in support of her son’s World Language teacher, explaining that she could tell she really wanted the students to become proficient in the language.
However, another parent, Martin Reyes Garcia, could understand where some people may be coming from with this issue.
“It could be (offensive) because it’s not just for Mexican people, it’s for all the Latino people who speak Spanish and they could feel like they’re trying to make fun of us.”