WILTON, Conn. -- Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton is calling for a formal apology from Wilton High School to the Danbury community regarding an incident that occurred at Friday night's football game between Wilton High and Danbury High.
A group of Wilton students were heard chanting "Build The Wall" last Friday evening at a home football game against Danbury, according to Boughton, the Wilton Bulletin and other media reports.
In a letter to Wilton High Principal Robert O'Donnell, posted Thursday at the City of Danbury's Facebook page, Boughton says the chant was "troubling and offensive to our community."
"My office has received several calls as well as notifications through social media describing the pain that these comments have caused," Boughton said in the letter.
Boughton also cited an email from O'Donnell that this will be a "teachable moment" for students.
The Danbury mayor, a former high school teacher, called on the high school principal to make "the crux of this teachable moment ... an apology to our students, and our community, for the hurt that has been caused."
"Part of becoming a citizen and an engaged member of our community, is knowing how and when to communicate our beliefs, whether they be political or otherwise," Boughton said. "As educators, we both know the importance of civic responsibility; part of that responsibility is accountability for our actions."
A group of Wilton High alumni found the response to the "Build The Wall" incident to be "lackluster," according to an email sent to Daily Voice. They sprang into action, drafted a letter and posted it on change.org. As of Thursday evening, the petition had over 260 signatures.
The open letter to O'Donnell from WHS Alumni said, "While we find the incident itself repugnant, we are similarly dismayed by the Administration’s lackluster response to date.
"We thank you and the Administration for recognizing that these student actions were inappropriate, but do not feel that you have sufficiently recognized and addressed the underlying privilege and unintentional ignorance that can come from growing up in a sheltered, loving community like Wilton," the letter says.
The letter says the behavior "was reprehensible and inexcusable, but not inexplicable in a school community that does not openly discuss such topics."
It calls on O'Donnell to respond "with appropriate severity. ... To say that the problem with this behavior is that it 'offends' other students fundamentally misses the larger issues of privilege and social responsibility that WHS (and the entire Wilton School System) has a responsibility to address. More importantly, it detracts from the importance of this social issue by not calling this incident what it truly was: an act of bigotry and racism."
The letter asks the principal "to take concrete action and educate its students on the function of privilege in American society."
The phrase "Build The Wall" often heard at Donald Trump's campaign rallies is considered offensive, a Wilton parent also told the Wilton Bulletin.
Wilton High has 12 percent minority students, while Danbury High's minorities comprise over half of its students, Hispanics mostly, the Wilton Bulletin noted.
Given Danbury's "higher Hispanic and African-American population," the resident called the chant "racist," according to the Wilton Bulletin.
Stephen Hudspet, who chairs the Wilton Interfaith Action Committee, told the Wilton Bulletin the incident "shocked" him.
Parents and others reportedly contacted Wilton High School Principal Robert O'Donnell and he wrote to parents about the incident, reportedly done by a few student, said the Wilton Bulletin.
The students reportedly conveyed to the principal that their remarks were in support of Trump as president, not aimed at offending, according to the Wilton Bulletin.
For the Wilton Bulletin article, click here.
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