Oklahoma City Public Schools Apologize for Watermelon Photo Frame Displayed During Black History Month Event

Oklahoma City Public Schools has apologized after a photo frame which displayed a "negative racial stereotype" was displayed at a high school's Black History Month celebration.

The offending photo frame decorated with watermelons was displayed at a soul food lunch at Frederick A. Douglass High School on February 20, The Oklahoman reported.

Oklahoma City School Board member Ruth Veales, who represents a number of predominantly black schools in the area, including Frederick A. Douglass High School, said she was shocked when she heard complaints about the photo frame on social media.

"I saw it, and I had the same response," Veales said. "As we go back into history, that is a derogatory term about black people."

According to reports, the district's school nutrition department brought in the photo frame for the lunch it was hosting. A spokeswoman told The Oklahoman that it has been used for other food events before. It is unclear if it had been used during Black History Month celebrations in the past.

The frame was eventually removed by a district administrator.

In a statement, Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent Sean McDaniel apologized for the "inappropriate and hurtful" actions during the Black History Month celebration.

"This is especially harmful in light of other incidents that have occurred in our state. It is my expectation that all people in our district are valued and that we operate in a culture of mutual respect."

This week, University of Oklahoma students staged a mass sit-in following two separate incidents in which teachers used a racial slur while teaching a class.

Also this week, an Oklahoma high school game announcer was replaced at halftime after describing the names of a girls volleyball team made up of mainly minority players as "pretty disgusting."

McDaniel said that the district put staff on mandatory implicit bias training before the incident with the photo frame, which will be completed on May 1.

"This is just one step but an important one as OKCPS shifts our school and overall district cultures toward policies and practices that promote and encourage environments that are diverse, inclusive, and accountable," McDaniel said.

"On behalf of the board and district leadership, I sincerely apologize for this and any other incident that has devalued any member of the OKCPS family. Going forward and without compromise, our learning and work environments will recognize, respect, and value all people.

OKC school district apologizes for racially offensive photo frame | @NuriaMKeel #oklaed https://t.co/xritdoPMLu

— The Oklahoman (@TheOklahoman_) February 27, 2020

"We are on this equity journey together. My resolve is to hold myself accountable and to continue to work with all members of Team OKCPS to create a place where our children, families and staff feel safe and welcome.

"Excellence in OKCPS is not an option. It is our only way forward," he added.

It is unclear if any disciplinary action has been taken. The Oklahoma City Public Schools has been contacted for further comment.

Frederick A. Douglass High School
The offending photo frame was displayed at a soul food lunch at Frederick A. Douglass High School in Oklahoma City. Google Maps