School Slammed Over Black History Month Menu

By Albert Lin

After objections from both faculty and students, a San Franciscoarea high school has wisely decided against plans to celebrate Black History Month with a meal of fried chicken, cornbread and watermelon. The controversy prompted Carondelet High School’s principal to send home not one but two letters of apology for the “racially insensitive” menu, according to the Contra Costa Times.

In a letter issued on Tuesday, Principal Nancy Libby wrote, “I’d like to apologize for this announcement and any hurt this caused students, parents or community members. Please know that at no time at Carondelet do we wish to perpetrate racial stereotypes, and we indeed work diligently to do just the opposite. Please know also that I have looked into this matter, determined how this happened and have already taken steps to ensure this does not occur again.”

After holding an assembly a day later to discuss the issue, Libby sent out a second letter on Wednesday again apologizing for the “very unfortunate incident.”

Carondelet is an all-girls Catholic school in Concord, Calif., about 30 miles northeast of San Francisco. It does not break down the demographics of its student body on its website but does say, “The student population of about 800 provides a rich diversity reflecting the cultural, ethnic and socio-economic realities of the East Bay.”

Photo by Shutterstock

The lunch menu had been announced over the public-address system on Monday. There has been no explanation as to how the menu was decided, but one of Libby’s letters said that “adults made mistakes causing this situation and that we are doing our best to learn from those mistakes and to bring that knowledge to the CHS experience.”

Director of Communications Christina Ditzel released an official statement to the media on Thursday, which was also posted on the school’s website and its Facebook page.

“We are saddened and distressed by part of our daily announcement on Monday regarding Black History Month. That announcement described a menu that was racially insensitive. Our normal procedures would have caught this insensitivity before it was planned or broadcast to our student body, but those processes broke down and the menu was planned and publicized without administrative knowledge or permission.

“We are addressing the communication breakdown and using this incident to raise awareness about cultural sensitivity and diversity, so such incidents never again occur in the Carondelet community. Cultural insensitivity of any kind is inconsistent with the mission of Carondelet High School, which is dedicated to educating, challenging, and enabling young women to integrate gospel values in their lives.”

The items were removed from Friday’s lunch menu. Libby said that the school plans to hold a diversity assembly later this month, and that any future cultural celebrations will be about “more than food” and include history, tradition, music and dance.

The idea to celebrate Black History Month came from the school’s Black Student Union, which is run out of neighboring all-boys De La Salle High School but includes members from both schools.

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