Every year, seniors at Dos Pueblos High School gather to take their class yearbook picture. Over the last several years, some students have used colored duct tape to form letters on their shirts that spell out words and phrases — such as “#STILLSINGLE” and “DREAMERS” — when the students stand in a row with friends. This year (pictured), political statements stood out, including “LIBERALS!,” “TRUMP 2020,” and President Trump’s campaign slogan “MAGA.” Afterward, Dos Pueblos Principal Bill Woodard was approached by about 20 students who were offended by the anti-immigrant and xenophobic connotations linked to Trump’s slogan. “It was ‘MAGA,’ not really ‘TRUMP 2020,’ the students were upset by,” said Woodard. “I listened to them, really truly listened to them.”
The group of mostly young Latina women said they found the message divisive and hurtful, and they were further upset that a member of the student leadership group was a participant. There were three levels to the issue, said Woodard: “a leadership representative being involved; students in general doing that; [and] feelings of the administration being supportive of them” (the students with the MAGA shirts). Eder Gaona-Macedo, executive director of Future Leaders of America, spoke with the Latino students who had reached out to Woodard. “A lot of students don’t feel safe or welcome,” said Gaona-Macedo. “Student safety is not just physical; [it’s also] their emotional well-being.”
Woodard invited the leadership-class student who participated in spelling out “MAGA” to meet with the group of offended students. “It was a good teachable moment about freedom of speech,” he said, adding that students are learning that words can hurt, especially in today’s political arena. “I’m very proud of how our students have handled the situation,” he said, “and glad we’re having conversations and not shying away.” Woodard said he thinks it’s unlikely the picture will run in the school yearbook, but that’s up to the student editors.