School Superintendent Tim Mitchell is in the midst of a transition from the Chamberlain School District in South Dakota to one in Rapid City.
Each district has a significant population of Native students. So that transition hasn’t been helped by this week’s incident involving six Chamberlain students showing up for classes in homemade “White Pride” T-shirts that they said were a reaction to other students’ “Native Pride” garb.
As Kayla Gahagan of the Rapid City Journal reports here:
Chamberlain students in 'White Pride' T-shirts. (KELO-TV)
Mitchell, who was selected as Rapid City’s new school superintendent in part for his successes in Chamberlain to bridge the gap between the Native and non-native community, scrambled to deal with the incident he described as “polarizing.”
“It really ignited a firestorm,” he said.
The T-shirts said “Cracker,” on the back, which is often used as a derogatory slang term for impoverished white people, and had large handrawn Celtic Crosses, a symbol often used by white supremacists. On the front of the shirts was the word “Peace” and a peace sign.
Mitchell says students and parents in Rapid City will likely view his handling of the Chamberlain incident – the students in the “White Pride” shirts were asked to change their shirts, but two refused and left for the day – as a litmus test. And he called the situation a “defining moment in my legacy here.”
Chamberlain serves serves the Crow Creek Sioux and Lower Brule Indian reservations. Many people from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation live and work in Rapid City. During Mitchell’s 15-year tenure at Chamberlain, Native American students’ test scores have improved, and he’s implemented cultural programs and curriculum to support them.
Mike Tyrell, executive director of the private St. Joseph’s Indian School, says that “we do have students offended by the whole situation.” But, he says, “Our idea is to work with kids to see this as a growth opportunity, instead of retaliation.”
Tags: buffalo post, Chamberlain, Crow Creek Sioux, Education, Gwen Florio, Lower Brule Sioux, Native American news, Native Pride, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, racism, Rapid City School District, S.D., St. Joseph's Indian School, White pride