Superintendent proud of student who peacefully protested at graduation ceremony

Local News

BROWNSVILLE — Brownsville Independent School District’s graduating class of 2020 from Simon Rivera Early College High School had a lot of questions following the ceremony that was live-streamed on YouTube.

“Why was the video taken down,” asked Class President Daniela Villagrana.

The top 12 student believed her peaceful protest to kneel during the national anthem in support of Black Lives Matter movement was the reason the ceremony to be pulled from YouTube Monday evening.

“I was scared because they had told me they were going to escort me so my first thought was they’re going to see me kneel and they’re going to like just carry me out here or something,” said Villagrana.

This was Villagrana’s first act of progress and the fear of removal from the graduation ceremony did not happen, instead, she was praised.

“I was right there with the student,” said BISD Superintendent Dr. Rene Gutierrez. “If that’s the way she feels she needs to express herself she did it and I’m proud of her.”

While Dr. Gutierrez tells CBS4/LOCAL 23 he’s proud, the students don’t believe educators with the district share his approval because of what was said to them before graduation and in an email by a principal of another high school to “display your support for minorities at a different time.”

The contradiction of messages prompted BLM supporter Victoria Guerrero to create an email letter-writing campaign, urging BISD for students to take a knee and “allow students to peacefully show their respects and solidarity in this way, with no repercussions to them.”

The repercussions to Villagrana did not happen.

According to Dr. Gutierrez, a power outage knocked out their internet system and the video was removed from YouTube.

“The area surrounding Sam’s Stadium experienced 3 momentary blinks Monday, June 1 at 8:09 p.m. that lasted a total of 17 seconds,” confirmed the Brownsville Public Utility Board.

The district says 17 seconds turned to minutes of dead air and the stream was pulled for editing, but not the removal of Villagrana’s message.

“We did lose footage,” said Dr. Gutierrez.

Villagrana hopes others will peacefully protest, support racial justice efforts, and tells CBS4/LOCAL 23, “it was worth it. I would do it again.”

Wednesday, at 4 p.m., BISD uploaded Rivera’s graduation in two separate videos at 1:27:44 Villagrana takes a knee, watch below.

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