‘Last Free Meal’ incident offers food for thought about race and food
In the insulated world of Allentown High School, Principal Constance DeNicola Embley used an escape hatch when asked about an alleged incident that targeted black students.
“I cannot comment on another student’s discipline or actions. It is actually illegal for me to comment on what another student does,” DeNicola Embley, told
The Trentonian on Monday.
Sounds like nonsense, especially when the student body, parents and even outsiders should have an understanding about consequences suffered when people violate school policy. We deserve the opportunity to learn from mistakes made by others.
The Allentown principal avoided speaking directly about a post Donald Trump presidential election victory social media entry that showed black students queued for food.
An attached comment read “Last Free Meal.”
Ok, some student gets fed a plate piled with prejudice and distortions by his parents then unleashes his learned behavior onto social media.
Principal DeNicola Embley delivered a typical freak out response.
“I will not tolerate any type of racial incident at this high school,” she said. “This high school does not take any type of behavior like this lightly, and it is not tolerated .... Any type of racial incident would not be tolerated here. It would be appalling to me.”
Principal DeNicola Embley could have opened the New Jersey Educational Playbook. (No, it does not exist). Dr. Richard Fitzpatrick, superintendent of the Upper Freehold Regional School District did not respond to a request for comment.
Learning institutions, workplaces, heck, everybody needs an immediate and direct response that confronts prejudice, bias, bigotry and racism.
DeNicola Embley should have implemented strategies that met head on this disruptive and prejudice behavior.
This could have been an ‘everybody into the auditorium’ moment for a discussion about prejudice.
Millions of U.S. people live in poverty, more than ever before in a country that trashes about half of all food produced, bought and sold here.
Reduced or free meals, especially breakfast which jump starts education, sounds reasonable.
In fact, many school districts provide across the board free meals to avoid stigmatization of food needy students.
This Allentown High event includes other issues worth identifying.
The Upper Freehold Regional School District voluntarily participates in New Jersey’s Interdistrict Public School Choice Program which allows enrollment for a limited number of students who live outside the district.
Many of the new students transfer from significantly black school classrooms into predominantly white schools.
School districts that adopt the Choice program and parents who infuse their children into these situations should expect growing pains from both sides of the color divide.
Let’s play with statistics for one moment.
The Trentonian reported Allentown High School in the 2014-15 academic year had 1,265 students enrolled, with 83.5 percent being white, 5.7 percent being black, 4.8 percent being Hispanic and 3.8 percent being Asian, according to a New Jersey Department of Education school performance report.
This is a wild guess, but the 1,265 Allentown High School students belong to the human race.
Teaching moments arrive in educational institutions that require closing books and opening eyes, minds and hearts.
Allentown students, teachers and administrators should work toward developing one student body that celebrates diversity and opportunities for growing up.
Being human represents a great challenge but those who arrive at that wonderful stage in life discard race and other limitations to embrace humanity.
This image of black Allentown High School students standing in a cafeteria lunch line was posted on social media with the caption “Last free meal” hours after Presidentelect Donald Trump declared victory in the 2016 presidential election.