The Andover Regional School District responded to the story of Spanish teacher Helen Kuperus and the figures by saying that the students will not be burning the figure of Donald Trump or any of the other figures. They also stated that the students themselves, not the teacher, created the figures. No one from the school returned our request for a statement, but The New Jersey Herald gave their response:
“The students decided how they were going to dress their figures,” [Principal Cindy] Mizelle said, adding that the scarecrow contest had become a tradition that students looked forward to throughout the year. “No one told them to make one that looked like the president. In Spain, where this festival is held, the figures are often political. The president is one of the political figures that the students can identify, so it makes a lot more sense in context that this is what they decided to create.”
School Board President Robert Koroski said the project demonstrated a “creative approach to education.”
“I’m proud of our Spanish teachers for taking the initiative to teach the students about other cultures in such an interactive way,” Koroski said.
“This is a simple misunderstanding.” Mizelle said. “Again, just to clarify — this is not a political message and nobody is burning anything. This was simply a way for the students to learn about another culture and take part in a fun activity.”
You will recall that we explained the fiesta that occurs in the Las Fallas de Valencia, which is what they are supposed be representing. We also requested a statement from both the school and the teacher, which we did not receive.
We wrote this: “The Ecuadorian event contains dolls created by the community called “The Viejos” and is meant to symbolically say goodbye to the previous year. Sometimes they get “sinister” with their “dolls” and use political figures. The Valencia event, originally a fiesta for St Joseph, is now 5 days long and keeps the “scarecrow-like” figures called “ninots” around until the “La Crema,”or the burning.”
We also took issue with the politicizing of the lesson. Schools all over the nation are politicizing their lessons to students. The school denies there was any intent to do that. We’ll take that at face value for now.
It would have been clearer if Ms. Kuperus had written in the paper that no figures would actually be burned, and that the students created the figures. She did not do that. We received several messages from people on Instagram and via email who were infuriated about the situation, so we wrote about it. We have no issue with teaching students about other cultures, but the school had to know that using the President as one of the figures would garner criticism, even if created by the students.
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