Created: 12/16/2013 11:44 PM
By: Jen Samp, KOB Eyewitness News 4
A Rio Rancho teacher is on paid leave for comments he made to a black student dressed as Santa Claus.
As the story continues to go national, the NAACP is urging people to go easy on that teacher.
The NAACP calls the comment offensive, but adds that everyone makes mistakes.
The teacher has apologized to the family, and Rio Rancho Public Schools tell KOB teachers get diversity training every three years.
Colin Pearman is an African American who has dedicated the past ten years to putting on the Santa suit as a volunteer in Albuquerque. He says he is not sure what the punishment should be for the teacher out of Cleveland High School who told a black student that Santa Claus is white.
"This is my Santa suit, which was made for me," he said as he pulled out the red suit from a garment bag.
He says children ask him many questions.
"They ask, where are you located Santa? I say, the North Pole," Pearman said. "Where's your sled and reindeer? It's on the roof."
But he has never been asked about his race.
"Kids are just happy to see Santa. Santa Claus can be any color he wants to be," said Pearman, letting out a jolly laugh.
Pearman thinks the teacher might need a lecture, but right now, he's trying to spread a different story about what it really means to be Santa Claus.
“Santa is in the heart," he said "We make kids happy with smiles on their faces."