US

District calls student's blackface an 'innocent mistake'

A New Jersey school superintendent says a white student made an "innocent mistake" by performing in a celebration of world cultures with his face colored black.

The eighth-grade boy was representing Brazilian soccer in a recent performance at Veterans Memorial Middle School in Brick Township, the Asbury Park Press reports . The student covered his face with the grease that athletes apply under their eyes to reduce glare.

"Just one student went overboard and decorated his whole face," Brick Interim Superintendent Thomas Gialanella said. "The student says he didn't mean any disrespect by it."

A black classmate took a picture and showed it to his mother, who posted it online. Aimee VanDuyne, who is white and has three black children, said her son was shocked that no adults told the boy it was inappropriate.

"I think if they were more sensitive to the children of color in their care, it would have sent up a red flag," she said. "But I think they're still just used to having white students, and the children of color are an afterthought.

"I don't blame the kid," she said. "I don't think he knew what he was doing."

Gialanella said the boy didn't realize the suggested reference to whites performing in blackface, a once-common practice in 19th century minstrel shows to portray blacks. He said he'll increase sensitivity training for staff and students.

VanDuyne said she has been pleased with school's response, saying they handled it "as well as could be expected."

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Information from: Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, http://www.app.com