School board supports Latino student group |

School board supports Latino student group

John Gardner
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colorado – Six people, mostly parents of Garfield School District Re-2 students, attended the school board meeting Tuesday at the Learning Opportunity Center in Rifle, expressing concern about a Latino student group called “Everyone United” or “Todos Unidos” in Spanish.

Parents Eileen Tinker and Don Cummings were again among those parents attending the school board meeting.

“You said that you would do the right thing and investigate it and see if it has any business being allowed in Coal Ridge [High School],” Cummings told the board.

According to Re-2 board president Jay Rickstrew, the student group has every right to meet at the school under the district’s policy regarding non-curricular student groups.

“If we find that this is a separatist or exclusionary group, it will no longer be,” Rickstrew said. “But, because they focus on Latino issues, as long as it’s open to everybody, it’s not an exclusionary group,”

Tinker maintained that the group is exclusionary to Latino students because the group’s agenda is to attend an annual La Raza dinner in Denver. Tinker did not specify which La Raza dinner would be attended. There is an annual La Raza convention held in Denver by an organization called the La Raza Student Leadership Institute, which is a consortium of higher learning institutions, including the University of Colorado at Denver, Metropolitan State College of Denver and the Community College of Denver.

Tinker and Cummings told board members at its Sept. 28 meeting that the dinner was held by the National Council for La Raza (NCLR) which she believed to be a separatist and racist organization, which is one of their main concerns. However, the NCLR has nothing to do with the Denver event and is not a separatist or racist organization.

According to NCLR spokeswoman Lisa Navarrete, the NCLR is often mistaken for other groups using the term La Raza that may have some negative connotations.

“Unfortunately, it happens more frequently than we would like,” Navarrete said.

The NCLR is a non-profit advocacy group headquartered in Washington, D.C. that claims to be the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. The organization promotes opportunities for Hispanic Americans throughout the nation.

According to Re-2 Superintendent Susan Birdsey, the student group from Coal Ridge didn’t attend the Denver dinner last year, as previously reported, and the group has not requested to attend this year either.

“This is a group of kids, a bright group of students, who really want to help the community, be a part of their community and do right by there community. They are interested in finishing [high] school and going to college and not becoming a statistic, and I applaud that.” Birdsey said.

Tinker and Cummings said that they are not against the students, but they take issue with the group being exclusive to Latino students, and that it is not open to other ethnicities including White, English-speaking students, because the meetings are conducted in Spanish. However, Rickstrew confirmed that while that may have happened in the past, the meetings are no longer conducted in Spanish.

School board member Scott Doherty compared the group to a chess club saying that a club of that type could be considered exclusionary, as well, because it excludes people who do not like chess.

“If they are not excluding people, in any way, it’s hard for us to not allow it,” Doherty said.

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