4th Graders On Winning Robotics Team Told To 'Go Back To Mexico'

by Mike Julianelle
Image via GoFundMe

A young team of robotics whizzes got told to “go back to Mexico” because 2017 is a trash fire

Usually when a team of fourth-graders wins a competition, it’s cause for celebration. But for five kids from an Indianapolis elementary school, their victory was tainted by the disgusting racial slurs yelled at them.

By grown adults.

USA Today has the story of the five members of the Pleasant Run Elementary School’s robotics team, the Pleasant Run PantherBots, who made it a step closer to the Vex IQ State Championship with their win last month. On their way out of the competition, the team of fourth graders, two of whom are Latino and one of whom is African-American, were confronted by the a crowd in the parking lot.

The competition was held at a high school in Plainfield, Indiana, and featured 35 teams from Indianapolis-area schools. It was students from those other teams who were waiting for the PantherBots, whose school is made up of lower income students from the east side of the city, as they headed out of the building.

Several kids shouted “Go back to Mexico!” as the fourth-graders, in a disgusting reprisal of some of the comments the team had heard inside the school during the competition — from adults.

Diocelina Herrera, the mother of PantherBot Angel Herrera-Sanchez, tells USA Today that some parents were making disparaging comments. “They were pointing at us and saying that ‘Oh my God, they are champions of the city all because they are Mexican. They are Mexican, and they are ruining our country.'”

Upon learning of the incident, Plainfield officials condemned the parents and students involved.

Sabrina Kapp, director of communications for Plainfield Community School Corp, says, “We don’t condone that behavior; we don’t tolerate it in our schools. We talk a lot about community values here. That is simply not something that anybody associated with Plainfield schools would put up with.”

Lisa Hopper, the coach of the PantherBots and a second grade teacher at Pleasant Run Elementary, tried to rationalize the racism. “For the most part, the robotics world is kind of a white world. They’re just not used to seeing a team like our kids.”

Those delicate snowflakes had better get used to it, because the PantherBots aren’t going away anytime soon.

Three weeks after the incident, the PantherBots won an award for best robot design and engineering at the state championships. That win qualified them for the Vex IQ World Championship in Louisville in April, where they’ll compete with students from all over the world.

“They see us and they think we’re not going to be competition. Then we’re in first place the whole day, and they can’t take it,” Hopper says.

A GoFundMe set up for the team has already exceeded its funding goal, and Hopper says the excess money will go toward next year’s robotics program.

Having only just recently begun learning about robotics after the school received a grant, these five kids are definitely going places, and it’s clear that incidents like this won’t slow them down.

Hopper explained, “They said: ‘We know they are mean. We know they were jealous. We’re not going to let it bother us.’ One of our guys said ‘to take stuff like that and let it make you stronger.’”