By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
Controversy stemming from a dispute over a t-shirt erupted into a physical altercation at the San Benito High School pep rally on Friday between a varsity cheerleader and a parent.
Colleen Duncan, 52, confirmed on Tuesday that she has filed a report with the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District Police Department involving an incident that took place at the Oct. 11 pep rally. Duncan, whose daughter is a senior on the SBHS varsity cheerleading squad, alleged that another senior cheerleader, Alexandria Hernandez, accosted her by grabbing her t-shirt.
“She just came up, grabbed me by the shirt and told me that because of my shirt I caused her to have cancer,” Duncan said about the pep rally incident. “She was using the f-word all over, and she was shaking and had her fingers in my face … just screaming at me. I wasn’t touching her, I wasn’t engaging her, and when my husband said, ‘Someone come get her away from my wife,’ that’s when the girl’s uncle said not to touch her.”
The t-shirt in question, according to Duncan, has been the source of much controversy within the cheer ranks due to its picture, which shows 10 senior members of the squad. Other cheer parents who spoke under anonymity said that Hernandez finds the article of clothing offensive since she is not pictured. Duncan, however, said there was no malicious intent in her alleged aggressor not being included in the photograph.
“She thinks the picture portrays the seniors without her in it, it’s not that at all,” Duncan said of the cheerleader in question, remarking further that the girls shown in the picture are 10 seniors who knew each other since freshmen year and decided to make a t-shirt acknowledging as much.
Noe Treviño, who said he is Hernandez’ uncle and advocate, sees it differently.
“This happened close to the beginning of August,” Treviño said about when tensions escalated. “That picture has 10 girls in the picture and they left Alexandria out, so to me they’re discriminating against her for leaving her out. But they’ve always been very mean and very ugly with her. They don’t tell her what time practices are. It kind of seems in many ways (as a way) for her to get discouraged and quit the team.
“Nothing would have happened Friday if they would have stopped it since day one, but to make it worse the cheerleaders were wearing the shirts on the campus today (Tuesday). Not only have they been harassing her but they’ve been bullying her. She has tumors in her body and has two in her head, and this is causing her a lot of stress.”
This isn’t the first controversial situation involving the t-shirt. Duncan added that her husband, Robert Duncan, 45, decided to get the t-shirts made after she said SBCISD and high school officials refused the use of the picture in this year’s football program and also as a sponsorship on the Bobby Morrow Stadium scoreboard.
Matters escalated when Duncan wore the t-shirt to Friday’s pep rally as SBCISD police officers had to intervene in the altercation, escorting all those involved outside.
Although Duncan reported the incident to SBCISD police, she said the “school” asked that she not file charges yet.
“I went today to the high school and filed a statement, but the school wants me to wait to see what happens before I file charges,” Duncan said Tuesday. “If they don’t do something about it, that’s my plan, is to file charges.”
SBCISD Interim Superintendent Alfonso Obregón said that SBHS Principal Henry Sanchez and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Celeste Z. Sanchez are researching the matter.
“One little girl was allowed to try out for the squad, and somewhere along the line modifications were made by the special ed(ucation) department for her to participate, and so she participated,” Obregón said when asked about Hernandez, who has a prosthetic leg. “The ultimate result was that she was allowed to become a cheerleader again, and there’s been a continuation of discontent by other parties, parents, some of the girls and the child herself. But in order to keep harmony, Mr. Sanchez has been trying to not have the team divide or fall apart.”
“Something happened at the pep rally where a certain group of parents were wearing t-shirts that had to do with cheerleaders,” Obregón continued. “And evidently they took a photograph and chose not to include that youngster, a handicap child.”
Obregón said the district’s Special Education attorney has advised hiring a mediator due to “so many different points of view.” “It’s in the best interest of the school, kids and parents that we get a mediator that knows special ed(ucation) law to just come in and talk to everyone and offer recommendations.”
In the meantime, SBCISD Community Relations Director Celia Longoria issued the following statement in response to media inquiries.
“San Benito CISD is reviewing the allegations and addressing the specific concerns with the individuals involved. The district takes these types of allegations very seriously, and as such, is working diligently to resolve the matter in question. In keeping with San Benito CISD’s strict adherence to students’ and families’ right to privacy, the district is unable to provide further details and/or comment about the individual allegations and incidences in question.”
The San Benito News has filed a public information request with the school district seeking the front page of Duncan’s report, which is public record.