Student's MLK Tribute Sparks Controversy
A second-grader at Meridian Ranch Elementary school in Colorado Springs was pulled out of class on Wednesday for painting his face black.
Sean King dressed up as Martin Luther King, Jr. for a class project.
?It was wax museum day for the second-graders and each one dressed up as a historical figure they were assigned,? said Sean?s mother, Michelle King-Roca.
King-Roca said Sean was so excited for the project.
?He said, 'Mom, I want to wear a black suit because that?s what he wore, a black tie, a white shirt and also I want to do my face black and wear a mustache,? said King-Roca.
Sean?s parents came with him to school, as did the other second grade parents, to watch the presentations.
?Right before it was time to come in (to the classroom), the principal came up and stated he (Sean) was to take the face mask off. There was a person in the faculty that had an issue with it,? said King-Roca.
King-Roca said she and her husband, Anthony, were stunned and shocked.
?As a parent I think it?s pretty sad that you?ve got a principal and a faculty member that are acting the way they are when they should be setting an example for children,? said Roca.
Spokeswoman Stephanie Meredith spoke on behalf of the principal and said it wasn?t just a staff member who took offensive to Sean?s face paint.
?When other students are offended by something, it is the principal?s role that the educational environment is safe for all students,? said Meredith.
Meredith said there were no guidelines given for the class project, but that wearing face paint falls under the school?s dress code policy and it's not allowed.
The principal asked Sean to wash off his face, but he didn?t understand why.
?They thought it was inappropriate and it will be disrespectful to black people and I say it?s not. I like black people. It?s just a costume and I don?t want to insult anybody,? said Sean.
A member of the school?s PTA, who was also a parent participating in the class project, said a group of parents inside the classroom agreed that it was ridiculous for the school to ask Sean to wash his face.
?I?ve never seen anything like this happen before. I?ve always been extremely proud of the school and where we live. I have two boys here. I?m extremely disappointed. If my own son, who is blonde, was chosen to do Martin Luther King, Jr., I would have gotten him a black wig and painted his face too,? said Pam Page.
King-Roca said she ignored the principal?s request to take Sean?s make-up off and remained in the classroom waiting for Sean?s presentation.
She said when the principal returned to the classroom, she and her husband were asked to come to the principal?s office.
?I was upset. I started crying,? said King-Roca.
There was a discussion between three school officials, Sean?s parents and Sean, according to King-Roca.
King-Roca said she asked what the consequence would be if Sean didn?t take his face paint off and was never given an answer.
She said after getting the runaround and rude treatment, she decided to leave the school with Sean.
The district said the prinicipal was very accommodating to the parents.
"We definitely don't want anyone to feel like they're not welcome in the school," said Meredith.
The family waited in the parking lot for KRDO Newschannel 13 and was asked by the district to leave the property, according to King-Roca.
The district said Sean is allowed back at school.
His parents are not sure if they want Sean to go back.
Click here to see pictures of Sean at the school's "wax museum" day.
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