Principal at Brooklyn school makes racially insensitive comment

BENSONHURST, N.Y. -- At the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, there is indeed a big question: what in the world was the principal thinking Tuesday when talking to parents and students during an open house?

"I said something very stupid," said Donna Taylor, the principal.

Sharing a personal anecdote about her Hispanic housekeeper, Principal Donna Taylor told the crowd, "In New York City, if you don't speak Spanish, you're going to clean your own house."

"I think I was trying to convey that we are a city that has probably a quarter of the population that is Spanish speaking and it's an important language," Taylor said.

Her intentions may have been good, but the backlash was immediate once published reports surfaced, including an article in Thursday's New York Times.

One parent told the Times, "Part of what school is supposed to do is prepare kids to live in a diverse, complicated world. To have that kind of tone deafness at the top was discouraging to me as a parent."

In a letter to Chancellor Carmen Farina, another critic said the message he took away was, "Brooklyn School of Inquiry is an elitist and discriminatory school led by an insensitive principal."

"Many people who know me, know me well, know that was not my intent and know that it does not represent who I am," Taylor said.

Inquiry is one of the city's five selective and coveted schools for gifted students. Studies have shown they continue to struggle when it comes to more diverse student bodies.

"I just hope that the Spanish families in New York City and their children will give me another chance," Taylor said.

Taylor believes this is a teachable moment, so the article was distributed to a class of sixth graders for a frank discussion. Many of the students stood by Principal Taylor.

She says that she was just trying to be funny, but admits that she blew it. The Department of Education released a statement saying, "The principal used very poor judgment in her choice of words and she has apologized to the school community."
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