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Principal apologizes for Black History Month celebration that included O.J. Simpson, Rodman, RuPaul

In a letter addressed to parents and community members, a South Los Angeles elementary school principal apologized Thursday for “questionable decisions” about which prominent African Americans to highlight in a parade marking the culmination of Black History Month.

Lorraine Abner’s letter did not name the individuals. But her apology came after three teachers at Wadsworth Avenue Elementary School were suspended while the Los Angeles Unified School District investigates allegations that they had their first-, second- and fourth-grade students carry pictures of O.J. Simpson, Dennis Rodman and RuPaul at last Friday’s event.

“Unfortunately, questionable decisions were made in the selection of noteworthy African American role models,” the letter said. “As the principal, I offer my apology for these errors in judgment.”

Abner could not be reached for comment Thursday. 

LAUSD spokeswoman Gayle Pollard-Terry said Simpson appeared on a school-approved list of Black History Month figures, which dates back to 1985. But she said the names of Rodman and RuPaul, among others, were added in pencil when teachers were selecting which prominent African Americans their classes would honor in the parade.

Pollard-Terry said the principal did not see the amended list, which LAUSD Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines called a lack of oversight. Some civil rights activists and groups, including the Los Angeles branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, protested Wednesday that those choices made a mockery of black history and reinforced racial stereotypes at a school that is predominantly Latino. They want the teachers, who are white, to be fired and the principal, who was not on campus last Friday, to be reprimanded.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expressed “shock and outrage” at the teachers’ alleged actions. “These teachers undermined the school's well-intentioned celebration, and they did so at the expense of elementary school students,” Villaraigosa said in a statement. 

But some parents said the incident had been blown out of proportion. “I don’t see why they chose them and not Barack Obama, but I don’t think it is worth firing them,” said Lizeth Santos, who was collecting her 4-year-old daughter from Wadsworth on Thursday afternoon.

Other students carried pictures of Obama, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman in the parade, which took place on the school playground, Pollard-Terry said. Abner said the school would be working with the district’s Office of Human Relations, Diversity and Equity to help students and adults learn from the experience; providing lessons that reflect “a multicultural curriculum that is culturally relevant"; and maintaining open communication with parents and the community to “grow from this experience.”

The teachers have not been identified and could not be reached for comment.

-- Alexandra Zavis

Comments () | Archives (64)

I'm sorry, but I do think it is a firable event. People who lack that much judgemant call into question their overall character. I certainly would not want these people coming anywhere near my children, let alone being paid and allowed to teach them. A double murderer and kidnapper as a role model? Please. Fire the idiot already.

As I read the article it indicated that the children were participating in a celebration of African American History. Despite how adults feel, the facts are that each one of the persons have contributed to the history of African Americans. How do we teach children not to judge when we place judgements ourselves adults. If the celebration was to include Mark McGwire, and the teachers were African American would they be fired. Come on now, history is history, what we teach the children should be to appreciate life, get yourself educated and look to your families as your role models. We have far more greater issues to contend with, let's focus the energy and protests on those.

I don't know why they are condemning RuPaul. RuPaul is the most successful drag queen and a figure in the gay community.

Rodman is a great player, but not someone that should stand aside other players

This was not "questionable decisions" made by these teachers. This was an intention act by three white males to disparage the African American community.

Inherent in the "outrage" are discriminatory views towards other groups marginalized by society. While O.J. Simpson's misdeeds are clear, what is the controversey behind RuPaul? That she is a transgendered individual? There may be something else to her story that I am unaware of, but to express outrage at her inclusion simply because she was born as a man shows more about the negative views towards glbt individuals than racial insensitivity.

Dont they mean "Barack Obama Black History Month"?? let's face it..That day will never be the same again.....
Funny...As we dont know a thing about that guy, and yet he holds the postion he does...Doesnt anyone find that odd? Wait for it..the name of Black History month will change, there is already Schools changing their names..and were doing that the day after the election..This will be just one other or Month that turns into A NATIONAL holida..where banks, counties, and other state and local govt workers will get paid holidays..

Obama isnt "black" FYI. Look up Morgan Freeman, he is it RIGHT. Black history month is racist and disgraceful, arent we ALL americans?

This is a sad way to come to the realization that these monsters should never be free to walk among us, ever again in life. How many lives need to be lost before society and law makers wake the hell up?

I support them 100%. We need more prisons. We need tougher laws. We owe it to our children.

I totally realize that THIS comment does NOT belong to THIS blog...but that is EXACTLY what I was told when I tried to post it on the correct article!

Why apologize? Black people were celebrating when the murderer OJ was acquitted. So apparently they think highly of the murderer.




You know I read some of the other post yesterday regarding this incident and found it really interesting.

People say "well aren't they black?" - I guess that's intended to be sarcasm but anyone who is slightly familiar with them knows that they aren't the best role models. Now as for Rupaul, I have nothing against him and I am not a homophobic. He is doing his thing but your going to tell me that their weren't more positive role models to select from? I am not even going to address the other two.

Just like other races (white, asian, hispanic, etc) would select positive role models, so do we - just because their black doesn't give them a pass nor does it mean that it just has to be accepted.

What is wrong with including RuPaul? He is a self-made person who has worked very hard for the right to be himself. He is a successful business person who has fashioned his outsized personality into a name brand and household word. He is all about kindness, acceptance of self & others, and always maintains a positive image for the gay community. He is an inspiration to many, and an icon to even more. He has mainstreamed drag more effectively than any other performer, which is no small feat for a minority.

How about killing two birds with one stone...teach local Latinos and African Americans about prominent black Latinos, most of whom live or have lived in the East Coast.


Let's celebrate Martin Luther King Day, not by essay writing contests, speeches and reviews of the man's accomplishments. Let us celebrate the day by ending its unique and divisive emphasis and make it generic "Black History Day" in which all emphasis on Dr. King is erased and instead we recognize the contributions of all the other African Americans.

Clarence Thomas, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman will be celebrated equally alongside Mike Tyson, Richard Pryor, Nipsey Russell and the guy who played Steve Urkel on TV.

Gary Coleman deserves some credit doesn't he? Why be so narrow minded about this day?

Why must Martin Luther King Day be celebrated near his birthday? Why not move it to Lil' Wayne's birthday? Lil' Wayne is Black too, isn't he?

Do you think that will pass muster with Barrack Obama, Reverend Jeremiah Wright and the NAACP?

If not, why not?

I suggest that it would be rightly seen as a denigration of the specific sacrifices and life's work of MLK, Jr.


If so, then why have we allowed government bureaucrats with the ever-present goal of erasing our collective memory to dictate the "everyone is special so no one is special'" program on George Washington and Abraham Lincoln?

I would bet that 90% of US schoolchildren are unable to identify Lincoln's Birthday as February 12 and Washington's as February 22. This was not the case even one generation ago.

George Washington's Farewell Address alone is worthy of a thousand op eds this Washington's Birthday. He is as deserving as Martin Luther King , Jr. of a day of "teaching moments" for young students.Elvisnixon.com predicted that all of these people ( RuPaul, OJ ad nauseum) would be added to "dumb down" our kids.

Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation. Why not have that fact taught in our government mandated schools? Are you racist? Are you in favor of Black slavery? If Harvey Milk is entitled to a specific day in California, why isn't Lincoln? Why is not George Washington elevated to the same level as a San Francisco Supervisor whose sole "accomplishment" was his homosexuality, which makes him useful for Leftists who push identity politics.

We have allowed the Left to denigrate our national heroes to the same level as Bill Clinton, Chester A. Arthur, Gerald Ford and (yes) Barrack Obama.

This Presidents Day ask yourself why?

Are we all that perfect? Look nobody got hurt, physically or financially damaged. Move on people. People are always looking for blood.

I agree with some parents. These teachers should not be fired, but they need to learn from their mistakes. Otherwise, if you bring in new teachers, will the new teachers realize the past errors in judgement?

What they did was not okay and should of chosen better role models. But I believe that they are making this too big of a deal. Everything someone does is racism against African Americans. Instead of ignoring these things they make them worse. Don't put yourself down to their lelvel ignore everything around you and become a better person.

Hispanics are not a race. They are as varied racially as all the people of the USA

Geez, what pictures would the school system have the kids carry during White History Month?

Is there a white history month?

Or a Brown History Month?

Oh, maybe we could just color code the whole calendar in the name of racial equality.

Once again things are being blowing out of porportion. Why should the African American's be offended for the teachers choosing OJ, Dennis Rodman, & RuPaul? Are they not black enough for them or is it because they are embarrased that these people are part of their race, and they only want the teachers to pick people like Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., etc? Every race has people that might embarrase them, but they are still part of their race. Was it in poor taste to pick OJ and DR for the things that they have done in the past, maybe, but what has RP done? Is it becuase they don't want anyone to think that there are gay AA? Everyone should just get on with their lives.

I love that OJ Simpson is on the "list" but not Dennis Rodman nor Ru Paul. How ironic. The latter two were penciled in, so the Politiburo didn't approve them.
By the way, anytime someone says "I am not homophobic" you can rest assured they are. And as for Dennis Rodman, what gives? A self-made success story. 99.9% of the kids in that school would give up their right nut to be Dennis Rodman - the girls too.

Those teachers should be fired. Period.

Transfer the teachers to another school. And then another and then another.

Until they retire at good government pension and health benefits.

Before OJ Simpson lost it over a rage of passion and jealousy he was the best football player that ever lived. How about taking the high ground now and then and celebrating their greatness rather than lynch-mobbing our fallen heroes for a change?

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