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Clara: "Frito Bandito" Costume Highlights Unfair Treatment of Minority Students

Classic Film via Creative Commons

A Salt Lake City School Board Member says he’s been dressing as the cartoon mascot Frito Bandito during school board meetings to make a point about the unfair treatment of minority students in the district.

Precinct 2 School Board Representative Michael Clara says he decided to attend a school board meeting dressed as a Mexican stereotype after Board President Heather Bennett requested that a resource officer sit at the front of the boardroom during a February 3rd meeting as a safety precaution. Bennett claims Clara, who is the only ethnic minority on the school board verbally assaulted her during a January phone conversation.

“It’s not the way to be shaping public policy by posting an armed guard,” Clara says, “somebody who’s authorized to use deadly force on an elected official."

Clara is calling attention to what he says is a disproportionate police presence at schools in his west-side precinct. Currently at least one resource officer is stationed at every high school in the Salt Lake City School District. They’re also stationed at Northwest and Glendale Middle Schools, which are both in Clara’s precinct. (Correction: Northwest Middle School is located on the west side of Salt Lake City but it is in Precinct 1.)

“We’re putting ethnic minorities on a collision course with the police,” he says “so we shouldn’t wonder at the end of the day why more ethnic minorities get killed by police and why prisons are filled with more ethnic minorities.”

The District Business Administrator Janet Roberts says police presence in Salt Lake City schools hasn’t changed since 1990.

Clara also called out board members for what he calls their refusal to discuss the low educational outcomes of minority students. He says they’ve paid little attention to the 52 percent graduation rate of Hispanic students in Salt Lake City.  District Spokesperson Jason Olsen told KUER the latest data indicates that rate is closer to 66 percent and has improved in recent years.

Clara says he will continue to show up to meetings in costume until the board addresses his concerns.

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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