February 25, 2012

Apologies for Menominee language incident

More on the story of the girl punished for speaking Menominee:

Sacred Heart, diocese send apologies

School's action satisfies Washinawatok family

By Tiffany Wilbert
Sacred Heart Catholic School and the Diocese of Green Bay have apologized to the family of the seventh-grade girl who was benched from a basketball game last month for speaking the Menominee language in class.

Letters of apology dated Feb. 22 were addressed to the family of Miranda Washinawatok and the Menominee Nation.
And:Miranda's mother, Tanaes Washinawatok, said she was satisfied with the apologies.

"It did take a month, but I know the letters helped with the closure of the incident that happened," she said. "We can move forward now with the diversity training and cultural events that they hope to bring into the school."

In his letter, Principal Dan Minter said he was "deeply sorry for any personal or collective hurt" that he caused Miranda, her family or the Menominee Nation.
Offender doesn't apologize

The mother was satisfied until she read the teacher's letter, it seems:

Menominee Language Incident: Teacher Offers Letter of Justification; Faults Miranda

By Levi RickertThis week her mother, Tanaes Washinawatok, received four letters from four different people associated with the Sacred Heart Catholic School in this small town, located six miles south of the Menominee Indian Reservation in northern Wisconsin.

The letters came from the Dr. Joseph Bound, director of education for the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay; Dan Minter, principal of Scared Heart; Billie Jo DeQuaine, assistant girls basketball coach and Julie L Gurta, teacher.

The Native News Network obtained copies of all four letters. Three of the letters were letters of apology.

The differing letter came from the teacher of Miranda, Miss Julie L Gurta. She is the one person who has direct contact with Miranda on a day to day basis. She did not offer an apology for slamming her hand on the desk and embarrassing the 12 year old for speaking her native language. She offered a letter of justification.

The letter differed in another way as well: Miss Gurta's letter was not written on official letterhead as were the other three letters. Her letter contained one paragraph that was 21 lines long.

Miss Gurta writes:

"In an academic setting, a student must be respectful of all of the other students--language and behavior that creates a possibility of elitism, or simply excludes other students, can create or increase racial and cultural tensions."
Comment:  So the actual offender still doesn't think she's done anything wrong? That outweighs the sincere apologies from everyone else.

The teacher doesn't seem to understand that others are apologizing for her bad behavior. I guess someone needs to say it explicitly: Miranda was right and Miss Gurta was wrong.

For more on apologies, see Why Wounded Knee Matters and No Apologies Without Remedies.

Below:  7th-grader Miranda Washinawatok.

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