Lake Washington School District (LWSD) revealed that the principal of Blackwell Elementary School has apologized to parents for mishandling an incident in which a teacher was reprimanded for wearing a traditional Chinese outfit to class.
Jim Eaton, the principal of Blackwell, extended his apologies on April 1 in a letter to Chinese parents of Blackwell, according to a report by assistant superintendent Joy Ross.
“I want to apologize for the impact that this incident has had on you,” Eaton wrote in his letter. “I have come to understand…that the way one of our teachers wore traditional Chinese attire in celebrating the Lunar New Year was considered a form of appreciation.”
In February, a first grade teacher at Blackwell, who was white, wore a traditional Chinese dress to class as part of a lesson on the Lunar New Year. After an anonymous complaint was submitted, the teacher was asked to apologize for the alleged act of cultural appropriation.
However, that apology in turn caused several Chinese parents to complain, countering that they felt the teacher intended to show appreciation for Chinese culture.
The situation escalated when WA Asians For Equality, an advocacy group, filed a discrimination complaint in March, giving the district a month to investigate the incident and determine if it broke any anti-discrimination laws.
The group was not satisfied with the district’s initial investigative report, and officially submitted an appeal to the superintendent and school board.
On June 8, Ross responded to the appeal on behalf of LWSD.
Ross wrote that the initial investigation by LWSD appeared to be “flawed,” and that a “clearer definition would help considerably in dealing with the intersection of cultural appreciation and possible cultural appropriation.”
She also promised to release the public records related to this incident.
The Sammamish Independent contacted LWSD, but they declined to comment further.