A New Mexico high school teacher is on paid leave after admitting to making a racially-charged comment about the race of Santa Claus to a black student after the teenager came to school with a Santa hat and beard, KOAT-TV reported Monday.
The teacher at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho told administrators he made a "stupid" mistake after he said to freshman Christopher Rougier that he could not be Santa Claus because Santa Claus is white.
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The teacher self-reported the incident, and the school put him on paid leave and removed Rougier from his class at the request of the student's parents.
Michael Rougier, Christopher's father, told KOAT-TV that the punishment was not enough.
"He needs to be fired," Michael Rougier said. "For him to make a comment like that, there has to be a minimum prejudice in him and we don't have room for that."
Michael Rougier said that the comments embarrassed their son and ruined Christmas for him.
A national conversation began on the race of Santa Claus when Slate columnist Aisha Harris wrote a piece on Dec. 10
saying that Santa should change races to reflect the changing demographics of America.
"Two decades later, America is less and less white, but a melanin-deficient Santa remains the default in commercials, mall casting calls, and movies," Harris wrote, proposing Santa's image should be replaced by a penguin. "Isn't it time that our image of Santa better serve all the children he delights each Christmas? Yes, it is."
Fox News host Megyn Kelly took issue with Harris' column on her show "The Kelly File."
"When I saw this headline, I kind of laughed and said this is so ridiculous yet another person claiming it's racist to have a white Santa," Kelly said last week. "By the way for all you kids watching at home, Santa is just white. This person is arguing that we should also have a black Santa. Santa is what he is and just so you know we're just debating this because someone wrote about it."
Kelly said later on Fox News that her comments were in jest after several liberal-leaning talk show hosts targeted her comments.
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