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Competition-winning 4th grade robotics team told to 'go back to Mexico'

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A group of black and Latino fourth graders from Pleasant Run Elementary in Indianapolis won a regional robotics challenge — and were in turn taunted by lesser-ranked competitors and their parents with cries of "go back to Mexico!" The five-person Pleasant Run PantherBots, three of whom are Latino and two of whom were black, became the target of the racist bullying at both a school auditorium and parking lot at the Plainfield, Indiana, competition, the Indianapolis Star reported.

The team consists of Elijah Goodwin, 10; Angel Herrera-Sanchez, 9; Jose Verastegui, 10; Manuel Mendez, 9; and Devilyn Bolyard, 9.

"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,'" Diocelina Herrera, mother of Herrera-Sanchez, told the IndianapolisStar.

"It's not going to affect us at all," Goodwin, the team's leader, said. "I'm not surprised because I'm used to this kind of behavior ... When you have a really good team, people will treat you this way. And we do have a pretty good team."

n a statement, Plainfield Community Schools Superintendent Scott Olinger condemned the racist behavior and singled out parents who participated for particular dismay.

"The Plainfield Community School Corp. does not condone or tolerate language or behaviors that degrade others," Olinger wrote, according to the Star. "Had our organizing team been made aware of the alleged behaviors by unknown adults on Feb. 2, we would have taken immediate action."

The statement continued:

"We were pleased to host such an impressive array of young students, and we were equally proud of the teamwork, camaraderie, knowledge and fun that these children displayed. To learn now that adults may have acted in a way that distracted from the success of the day is disheartening. In the Plainfield schools, such behavior is unacceptable, regardless of whether it comes from adults or students."

While it's not clear what motivated this particular hateful attack, similar stories of racism in schools have been cropping up in recent months. According to a survey by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the bigoted campaign rhetoric of President Donald Trump and his hardline policies in office has negatively affected the K-12 school environment.

While it's not exactly clear what spurred this specific racist incident, similar events have been on the upswing in recent years.

Of the more than 10,000 teachers, counselors, administrators and other school employees who responded to the poll, 90 percent said the election had negatively affected the environment at their school.

Eight in 10 reported fears for marginalized students including "immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans and LGBT people," while four in 10 reported "derogatory language" directed at minority students.

"More than 2,500 described instances of bigotry and harassment directly related to election rhetoric," the SPLC added.

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