Several black students said they were hurt and disappointed when Park Tudor School served the meal Wednesday, and the elite school issued an apology the following day for the “offensive and misguided” action.
“We apologize for what was a clear error in judgment,” school officials said in a statement. “We recognize the distress and hurt feelings this has caused within our entire community.”
Administrators said they realized the problem before lunch was served and removed references to Black History Month from the menu, reported the Indianapolis Star.
School officials blamed the menu mistake on Aladdin Food Management Services, which puts together meals without Park Tudor approval.
The same meal is served at Park Tudor’s annual multicultural dinner, which school’s director of diversity and inclusion said was specifically requested by families for the event.
The school official said the menu was “unconsciously” linked to Black History Month by the West Virginia-based food services provider, which declined to comment, without realizing any racist connotation.
Fried chicken became “one of the most egregious stereotypes” about blacks, along with watermelon, to emerge from minstrel shows, said Jakobi Williams, an Indiana University history professor.
“There are more important things you can do with Black History Month than a menu,” Williams said. “I don’t think students are going to learn much from a menu.”
Critics on social media said the school’s actions betrayed a lack of diversity at the K-12 private school, which enrolled just 67 black students among 950 in the 2011-12 school year.
About 25 percent of its student population is non-white at Park Tudor, which carries a $15,000 to $19,000 yearly tuition, but critics said the problem is a symptom of a greater issue at the school.
“I’m not surprised,” said John Stanfield, of the Greater Indianapolis NAACP. “Park Tudor is in serious need of getting very serious in developing effective inclusion and equality. Otherwise, their students are going to have a hard time transitioning in this world.”
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