Executive director of APA under fire for comments about undocumented immigrants

WEST VALLEY CITY (News4Utah) - Students and parents are calling for a public apology from the executive director of American Preparatory Academy (APA) after they said she posted racially insensitive comments online.

Alumni students sent in screenshots to News4Utah of a Facebook post by Carolyn Sharette on February 2. The post initially refers to the drug epidemic in Salt Lake City and then ends with her saying the "drug trade has been fueled by illegals pouring into our communities" and that she's "praying for a wall." The post has been deleted since.

Caroline Ramos, an alumni of APA said she was outraged by Sharette's comments, particularly because APA has a large percentage of students of color and students whose parents or family members are undocumented at their West Valley location.

"It was extremely insensitive because she was implying that the drug problem that we have here is predominantly caused by 'illegals' or undocumented. It's extremely insensitive to label a whole group of people as the cause of this problem," said Ramos. "Words have power. Words have meaning and no human is illegal."

Job Velazquez, also an alumni, said Sharette's comments were personally hurtful to him, because he has family members who are DACA recipients.

"I feel like my hard work that I put at the school is thrown out the window because I'm from a certain background," said Velazquez.

Both Ramos and Velazquez said Sharette's comments crosses the line of freedom of speech.

"Freedom of speech doesn't grant you access to hate speech," said Velazquez. "I would definitely classify it as hateful and disrespectful."

"These are not just her opinions or freedom of speech. These are racially insensitive opinions that are rooted into the institution of the school that are not just her thoughts. It's actually causing discrimination to the students. We've seen it with the lack of repercussions that students have when they're saying racially insensitive comments," said Ramos.

She said she was not surprised, but disappointed by Sharette's comments, recalling previous incidents that excluded students of color.

"It was a culturally insensitive environment. Any other culture trying to be inter-rooted in was extremely looked down upon," said Ramos. "We couldn't speak Spanish in or on school property because they were afraid we were going to be saying swear words or profanity as if our words were inherently violent."

A current APA student reached out to News4Utah and said when she addressed racial issues with Sharette, she was told "it will eventually go away if you ignore it."

Students and parents said they want an apology for Sharette's comments and will urge for a more inclusion environment at APA schools.

"If it's brushed right under the rug, it's just allowing this to keep going on. It's going to allow other teachers who feel the same way or parents who feel the same way to just be out about it," said Velazquez.

News4Utah received this statement from Brad Findlay, chairman of the American Preparatory Academy Board of Directors:

"We at APA pride ourselves on encouraging open communication and vigorous dialogue about the issues of the day. We try to do so without offending one another, but if someone does take offense, we are quick to talk it through as a group. Today we are having such conversations within our school community, in part to assure our students that in no way was any opinion expressed intended to reflect upon anyone involved with our schools.  Another of our strengths here at APA is teaching critical thinking; this gives us an opportunity to deploy those skills as we discuss this issue frankly and openly together."

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