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Indianapolis school apologizes for soul food menu

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Friday, February 28, 2014 - 8:27 am

INDIANAPOLIS — A private Indianapolis school apologized Thursday for a lunch menu toasting Black History Month that featured fried chicken, collard greens and a soul food bar, calling it "an offensive and misguided" attempt by the school's food vendor to honor the month.

Wednesday's menu, which also included black-eyed peas and candied yams, was titled "A Celebration of Black History Month." It spurred some black students to complain to Park Tudor School administrators that the menu was offensive, said John Daves, the school's director of diversity.

"Some of the students were concerned that it was equating Black History Month with fried chicken and collard greens," thereby perpetuating racial stereotypes, Daves said.

He said the menu was the result of a lack of communication by the school's food vendor, which came up with the lunch menu and its title without running either by school officials.

The vendor had in recent years catered dinners for the families of the school's African-American students, offering a menu that was agreed to by the school's multicultural affairs committee. Daves said the vendor decided on its own to offer a similar version of that dinner's menu for Wednesday's lunch and to tie it to Black History Month.

Daves said school officials only learned about the lunch menu when students began complaining during Wednesday's lunch period.

"The title of the lunch is really the root of the problem — not the food itself," he said. "It would give people the impression that we're saying that Black History Month at Park Tudor is only fried chicken and collard greens."

The school said in a statement that Wednesday's menu "was an offensive and misguided attempt by our foodservice provider to celebrate Black History Month" calling it "a clear error in judgment." The statement added that school officials recognize "the distress and hurt feelings this has caused within our entire community."

Daves, who is black, said he was proud of the school's diversity. He said the school's curriculum highlights the experiences and contribution of black Americans and other ethnic groups, and that Park Tudor holds social events throughout the school year touching on that.

The last such event was a school presentation earlier this month by Park Tudor students who had recently attended a People of Color Conference in the nation's capital, he said.

The private school and college preparatory academy enrolls about 1,000 students between third and 12th grade, school spokeswoman Cathy Chapell said. She said about 26 percent of students are racially or ethnically diverse, but she did not immediately provide figures.