Last Friday, a parent posted a message on Facebook calling out a public school teacher in Johnstown, Colorado, for holding a tasteless Cinco de Mayo celebration featuring students smacking around a piñata with Donald Trump's face on it. The post set off a politically-charged firestorm in the relatively quiet town, resulting in the teacher being suspended, parents and students unloading on each other online, and the whistle-blower mother becoming the subject of coordinated harassment on social media.
The whole episode began when Lesley Hollywood called attention to videos posted on social media by students from Roosevelt High School in Johnstown showing students of a Spanish class hitting a piñata with an image of Trump's face on it on campus. The teacher of the class either allowed the students to put the piñata up or put it up himself.
Hollywood, who stressed that she did not vote for Trump, posted footage of the "celebration" online on Friday with a message saying she will be "taking this up with the school":
So, this happened at my daughter's high school today. The Spanish teacher allowed students to destroy a pinata that had Trump's face on it (unclear if it was his idea or a student driven idea, but regardless it was allowed). UPDATE: According to students, the other side of the pinata had a picture of Mexico's president, Enrique Peña Nieto. There are multiple videos of this all over various students' social media accounts.
Now it's no secret I didn't vote for Trump, and I'm certainly not his biggest fan. I'd be outraged by this if it was Obama or Bush or Clinton. It's really unbelievable, especially right here in little ol' Johnstown, Colorado (a town which is honestly fairly conservative).
I will definitely be taking this up with the school.
(CBS Denver notes that evidence suggests that the students' claim that President Peña Nieto was on the other side of the piñata does not appear to be true.)
The next day, the school responded with a statement explaining that it was placing the teacher "on paid administrative leave pending an investigation":
It has come to the attention of the Weld County School District RE-5J Johnstown-Milliken leadership that on Friday May 5, during a Spanish class at Roosevelt high school, President Donald John Trump’s picture was placed on a piñata as part of a Cinco De Mayo event. Facebook photos show the piñata, the piñata tied to a tree, and a student with a bat in hand near the piñata.
The teacher in charge of this class has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by the school district that will commence on Monday, May 8.
Dr. Martin Foster, Superintendent, stated, “This was an incredibly disrespectful act that does not reflect the values of Roosevelt High School or the school district.”
The incident gained national attention, including from Fox News:
"It is disturbing that this would be happening in a school setting,” Hollywood told CBS4. "Why divide people? Why do this? There are so many other ways we can address politics in schools."
"Political discourse right now, in this country, is already so strained and so angry," she added.
For calling attention to what is clearly an inappropriate action by the teacher, Hollywood has experienced some disturbing backlash, including a violent statement one 16-year-old male student sent her. "Let's just hope someone puts a bullet in your brain you attention seeking b*tch. Thanks for ruining an innocent man's life," he wrote.
Hollywood posted an image of the message, which was sent directly to her by the student (post below, name and image of the student blacked out):
The mother of the student then responded, confirming that her 16-year-old son did in fact send that threatening message to Hollywood but blasting her as a "self-obsessed, attention starved, negligent pariah," who she claimed unfairly publicized her son's violent message. The parent threatened to take legal action against Hollywood.
Post below (names blacked out):
Other people in the community also slammed Hollywood for calling attention to the unacceptable Trump piñata party. Some students even began to organize to harass Hollywood's significant other online:
Another online critic, who appears to be a student, said she couldn't wait to witness Hollywood's reaction when her daughter was targeted at school now for her mother's actions:
Below are some more images of the Trump-smacking celebration posted by Hollywood: