Racist insults hurled at parent during Saline schools meeting meant to promote diversity

There were tense moments inside a meeting meant to promote diversity at Saline schools on Monday night.

SALINE, Mich. – There were tense moments inside a meeting meant to promote diversity at Saline schools on Monday.

The meeting was held in response to racist comments that surfaced on the messaging app Snapchat last month.

The district launched an investigation and found the posts were made by Saline High School students and directed at three black students.

A man who identified himself as Tom Burtell said he has six children in the Saline school district. He made comments that provoked the ire of parents and interrupted a father, who was talking about his child’s experience with racist students.

“Try being white in a black neighborhood and see what happens,” Burtell said.

“He was crying because of the abuse that he was enduring in this school system,” the father said.

“So why didn’t you stay in Mexico?” Burtell said.

Adrian and Lori Iraola own Chela’s with locations in Ann Arbor and Dexter. They said that for years their children have been targeted because of their Mexican heritage. They went to the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion meeting to support other parents fighting for change. They didn’t expect to have racist insults hurled at them.

“I’m glad that people are supporting us. I thank the gentleman for being vocal and expressing his opinion because it will make people realize that this is not a figment of imagination, it’s amongst us,” Adrian Iraola said.

They hope the Saline school district will make diversity training mandatory for teachers and that school officials will hold students accountable for their actions.

“To say, ‘The children are allowed to say these things because they’re kids’ isn’t working. It perpetuates racism within the system," Lori Iraola said.

About the Authors:

Priya joined WDIV-Local 4 in 2013 as a reporter and fill-in anchor. Education: B.A. in Communications/Post Grad in Advanced Journalism

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