APS apologizes for refusing moment of silence for Aztec - Albuquerque Journal

APS apologizes for refusing moment of silence for Aztec

Casey J. Marquez (Courtesy of YouCaring)

Albuquerque Public Schools has apologized for denying a request to honor the Aztec school shooting victims with a moment of silence during a cheerleading competition this past weekend.

District administrators acknowledged they made a mistake in an emailed statement.

“Moments of silence at the beginning of school-sponsored athletic events have proven to be controversial in years past, so it has been our practice to carefully review each request,” the district said. “Because this request was made just minutes before the start of the competition and a script wasn’t prepared, we didn’t have time to properly review it and it was denied. … The decision not to hold a moment of silence at the beginning of the spirit competition came across as insensitive, but it doesn’t reflect how we are feeling. It was a mistake and for that, we apologize.”

Mike Novak, one of the parents who asked for the moment of silence, told the Journal he was happy to hear the district had recognized its error.

“To see the apology, yes, I’m happy,” he said. “Their apology is accepted.”

On Saturday, Novak and several other parents wanted to honor Aztec school shooting victims Casey Marquez and Francisco Fernandez at the Metro Spirit Championships, a city-wide dance and cheer contest held at La Cueva High School.

The two 17-year-olds were shot and killed on Thursday after William Atchison, 21, pretended to be an Aztec High student and brought a gun onto the campus with plans to take hostages, according to investigators. They were the only victims.

Francisco “Paco” Fernandez (Courtesy of GoFundMe)

Novak said the Metro Spirit Championships would have been a fitting venue to recognize the teens because Marquez had been a cheerleader.

He approached La Cueva High School’s announcer as the stands were filling up and asked for a moment of silence at the beginning of the event.

While La Cueva administrators were supportive, APS Associate Director of Athletics Julie Sanchez turned down the request, according to Novak.

“I was shocked,” Novak said. “I said, can I ask you why? And she said no. I said there has to be a reason, and she said I’m just telling you no and walked away.”

Novak stressed that he didn’t want to go after Sanchez personally or impact her job, but needed to “right a wrong.”

“I was bringing to light the bad decision that was made at a time when hearts are open and our community needs stuff like this to heal,” he said.

In the statement, the district said they hurt for the victims’ friends and family, as well as the entire Aztec community.

APS administrators immediately reached out to the Aztec school district to offer any assistance, including a team of highly-trained crisis counselors.

The six District Stress Management and Recovery Team counselors will stay in Aztec through the week and will not receive extra pay, though APS is covering meals and lodging, according to a news release.

“This is a group of super professional, super compassionate, super driven counselors, all with graduate degrees, all who undergo intensive training because they care,” Victoria Waugh-Reed, APS Crisis Resource Counselor, said in the release. “They aren’t looking for anything for themselves. They just want to help others.”

 

 

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