INDIANAPOLIS — Students at an Indianapolis elementary school won the top prize in a robotics competition but left with a harsh lesson in discrimination.
The Pleasant Run Elementary PantherBots, as the five children dubbed their team, were new to bot competition when they won a spot in the Vex IQ State Championship.
As the children and their parents were leaving the high school where the competition was held, competing students were waiting in the parking lot, yelling “Go back to Mexico.”
The children in the PantherBots are 9- and 10-year-olds from a Title I school. Two are African American and three are Latino.
According to an MSN report, parents of the competing students were making discriminatory comments to other parents throughout the competition.
“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,’” said Diocelina Herrera, the mother of PantherBot Angel Herrera-Sanchez.
Lisa Hopper, coach of the PantherBots, described the robotics competition field as “kind of a white world.”
“They’re just not used to seeing a team like our kids,” she said. “And 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.”
Parents with the PantherBots were unable to identify the parents and students yelling the insults.
The PantherBots notched up another win and are now headed to the Vex IQ World Championship in April.
The children bounced back from the incident, with one student saying he’s used to the discrimination.
“They yelled out rude comments, and I think that they can talk all they want because at the end we’re still going to Worlds,” said 10-year-old team leader Elijah Goodwin. “It’s not going to affect us at all. I’m not surprised because I’m used to this kind of behavior.”
A GoFundMe page supporting the PantherBots trip to the championship raised so much money that the group had to stop taking donations.
Excess funds will fund the PantherBots 2018 operations.