Created: 12/13/2013 10:21 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4
A Rio Rancho teen just wanted to dress up for the holidays at his school. Other kids dressed as Santa, so he did too. Now, his teacher is under fire for a comment he made that some parents are calling racist.
Students at Cleveland High School were told they could dress up as Santa, elves or reindeer. But when a black student chose to be Santa Claus, he was called out for the color of his skin.
"Christopher, don't you know Santa Claus is white? Why are you wearing that?" Michael Rougier remembered.
When Rougier learned that is how a teacher reacted to his child when he showed up to school wearing Santa hat and beard, he was livid.
"There's no room for that in the classroom," Rougier said. "Whether this teacher felt Christopher may have been wearing this out of context, there's no room for it. There's just no room for it."
A spokesperson for Rio Rancho Public Schools says the Cleveland High School teacher knows he made a "dumb" mistake, and that he has since apologized to the Rougier family.
But the family says they didn’t even hear about this until another parent called them.
"If he has that attitude, how is it affecting students, studies, grading habits, trending toward Caucasian kids?" that parent asked.
Ninth grader Christopher now doesn't want to put the costume back on. He felt ashamed and embarrassed. But his parents want him to know there's nothing wrong with what he did, and they want to see change in that classroom.
"If it's not for parents like me that's part of interracial families to say, it's time to stop this... it's time to stop. I have to fight for my boys," Rougier said.
The district says they have disciplined the teacher but they won't say how. He is still teaching at Cleveland, but Christopher has been removed from his class.