Students at an Illinois high school have sparked controversy after a video showed them taking the knee when the DJ played a Mexican song during the school's homecoming dance over the weekend.
In a viral Instagram video posted on Sunday, white high school students from Marist High School were seen kneeling in protest as a Mexican dance song started playing over the speakers.
Elizabeth Pacheco captioned the video, "You send us emails asking for pictures of our families during Hispanic Heritage Month. You hang up our banners of papel picado throughout the school. If you love our food, ethnic fashion, and energy so much... why do you resent us. How would you like it if we kneeled to your country music?"
About an hour into the dance, the DJ spun a Spanish-language version of Billy Ray Cyrus' hit "Achy Breaky Heart," when Pacheco and another student, Maia Trevino, both 16-year-old juniors, said a few dozen of their classmates knelt together in the center of the dance floor.
Students Also Made Derisive Comments About Mexicans
They claimed the students also made derisive comments about Mexicans as the song played out. "'Ugh, it's Mexicans,'" the girls, who are both of Mexican descent, recalled the student saying in an interview with The Chicago Sun Times.
"I'm trying to understand their point of view," Pacheco said of her classmates. "But when it's something that's so wrong that just targets you and your community, it's really upsetting. I kind of can't see them the same anymore."
This isn't the first time something like this has taken place at the school. Trevino noted that a similar incident played out last month, when the predominantly Hispanic kitchen staff started playing Spanish-language music to mark the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month. She said some white students booed, and one mockingly used what she described as a stereotypical Mexican accent.
School Releases Statement, Incident 'Under Investigation'
Marist High School spokeswoman Kristine Kavanagh issued a statement saying school leaders "are disheartened by the recent events that took place at our Homecoming celebration this past weekend.
"Our Administrative team, Campus Ministry members, faculty, and staff will use this moment in time to educate all members of our student body, so they have a clear understanding of how their actions, even unintended ones, can be perceived as hurtful to others," the statement said. "We respect and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion for all and want every student to succeed by feeling valued, seen, and connected.
"We, as a school, promote cultural diversity and are providing professional development on cultural competency for staff and students. Marist High School is fully investigating the events and will address them as appropriate."