Originally published Jan. 19 on KTVB.COM.
CALDWELL — Students at Caldwell High School chanted, “B-P Brown Pride!” after a “brown pride” hoodie was the center of controversy at Caldwell High School on Tuesday morning.
By Thursday morning, the attention had turned to graffiti on the outside of the school.
The Caldwell School District and Caldwell Police Department are investigating the graffiti, which says “white power.” The incident happened around 1:15 a.m. Thursday morning, a Caldwell School District press release said, and is being investigated as a hate crime.
Four individuals wearing dark hoodies and face masks were caught on video camera vandalizing the school, the release said.
“We will not tolerate hate in our city and will ensure that whoever is responsible for this will be held accountable for their actions,” Caldwell Police Chief Rex Ingram said in the release.
The “brown pride” chants on Tuesday happened after a student was told she couldn’t wear the message on a sweatshirt at school.
Senior Brenda Hernandez said her teacher pulled her out of class for wearing the hoodie to school
“I was told to take off my ‘brown pride’ hoodie because others could find it offensive, racist,” Hernandez said.
She said she had to turn the hoodie inside out, so the words ‘brown pride’ didn’t show.
“That means my whole background. My family’s background, my ancestors’ background, and it will always be who I am. It’s something I can’t hide. There is no hiding it,” Hernandez said.
Officials with Caldwell High School and the Caldwell School District say the words “brown pride” on clothing go against school policy.
The section 1.4.1 of the district’s policy manual states, “Students on school property or at any school-sponsored activity shall not: wear, possess, use, distribute, or sell any clothing, jewelry, emblem, badge, symbol, sign or other items which are evidence of membership in/or affiliation with any gang or representative or any gang.”
“We have a dress code, though, that is fairly strict compared to other school districts because Caldwell has had a gang problem before, and ‘brown pride’ is associated with gangs,” Caldwell High School principal Anita Wilson said.
The disagreement prompted Hernandez to organize a peaceful protest. Students and other community members were there, including Fred Betancourt, a Caldwell High School adviser for the Future Hispanic Leaders of America club.
“It’s a cultural thing. That’s my belief, that’s the way I was raised. Pura cultura,” Betancourt said.
Wilson said she welcomes student input, but at the end of the day the school will keep following the current policy.
“These students did a great job at having a peaceful protest, and I support that,” Wilson said. “’Brown pride’ is associated with gangs. In fact, I was just looking up some and it says it’s one of seven street gangs operating in the Northwest.”
Daniel Liera, Treasure Valley Community College’s multicultural outreach coordinator, said while it is important to research the term “brown pride,” it is also important to hear directly from the culture using it.
“Being able to say you’re brown and proud and realizing that you might have social barriers in the future is a win because we are trying to change that mentality,” Liera said.
At the rally, Wilson encouraged Hernandez to attend the next school board meeting to talk about the issue.
“We can bring it to the district, but is the district going to understand? Who is the district? Do they even look like us?” Liera said. “We understand that the population of Latinos in schools is growing, but the people in administrations don’t look like us. What I would love to see is the district come with a subcommittee designated for those areas.”
The next Caldwell school board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 13.
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