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Valley students: Riots at U.S. Capitol 'should have been discussed in school,' but rarely were

Capitol riots
Posted at 10:05 PM, Jan 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-15 00:55:02-05

At least six high school students tell ABC15, some teachers "brushed over" the siege of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. last week, when classes resumed the following morning.

“I think they still think of us as kids even though we’re essentially becoming young adults," said Sarah Elshaigi, from Gilbert. "We are given the idea that we have to pretend that everything is normal and that we have to continue our education even though there’s so many things stopping us.”

Most students have faced a challenging year, dealing with the impacts of COVID-19, but most have been paying attention to issues across the nation. This includes protests over the summer in response to the death of George Floyd, and previously, gun violence in schools.

Watching protestors storm the U.S. Capitol is only the latest historic event students say they're working to process.

”If we as adults are feeling anxiety and fear around that attack then, of course, our young people are too," said Elise Villescaz, a teacher in Glendale. “What I noticed amongst a lot of my fellow educators was this fear of facing professional disciplinary action.”

"As much as my English teacher wanted to talk about it, he couldn’t because the school was so restrictive," said Lara Espina, from Scottsdale. "They said, 'You’re not allowed to talk about any politics; you’re not allowed to talk about any controversy.'”

"I agree that we shouldn’t necessarily bring overly partisan views into the classroom," added Villescaz. "I believe there is a way to have these conversations in factually accurate ways, but allow for that sensitivity that our students need in order to process these events.”

Kathy Hoffman, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, echoed the same message in a tweet Thursday morning:

One week later, several joined a virtual call after school hours to express their concerns and feelings after witnessing the chaos unfold.

“The man that was wearing a Camp Auschwitz sweater, like I am Jewish American, so I mean that really hurt me, that hurt my family," said senior Sophia Hammer, from Gilbert. " To see, you know, confederate flags being waved, and you know anti-Semitic remarks and just awful, awful things.”

"Every single time I hear about the Capitol storming, it just breaks my heart," said Espina, who says her family immigrated to the U.S. when she was 10-years-old. "That's something I would see every day in my home country, and when I moved here, I thought it wasn't going to be the same."

"This was a tremendously significant moment in our history and is impacting all of us and some of us in unique ways," added Villescaz. "I believe that educators truly care for their students and want the best for them. If we believe that we teach the whole child, we need to mean that in all times. This is one of those times where our students need to be mentally and emotionally supported.”