Advocacy groups are asking for an apology from the superintendent of the state's largest school district after he referred to children as "blind, crippled, crazy."
Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White made the comments during an interview Monday with WIBC-FM's Denny Smith while talking about graduation rates and the challenges of public schools versus charter schools.
"You've got to understand, we are public schools.What does that mean? We take everybody that come through the door, whether they are blind, crippled, crazy," White said.
The comments have been a hot topic of conversation on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and advocacy organizations that represent the developmentally disabled and mentally ill are calling White's phrasing offensive, 6News' Kara Kenney
"It was a poor choice of words, that if he had to do over he wouldn't, but words are hurtful," said John Dickerson, executive director of The ARC of Indiana, a group that represents the disabled. "That's why I think he would choose a different way of doing it."
"Why would you say it at all? It's not about political correctness. It's about what is appropriate, what is humane," said Edward Alexander, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Indianapolis.
White refused to meet with 6News on Thursday, but said in an email to IPS board members that the statement was taken out of context.
"I was talking about IPS serving every child that comes to our door because we are 'public schools,'" White wrote. "We turn no one away."
Board member Diane Arnold fired back at White, calling his comments offensive.
"To use words like 'crippled' and 'crazy' to describe our children is not appropriate and certainly does not indicate that we put children first," Arnold wrote.
Former IPS parent Julie Fritz wrote an email to board members complaining about White's comments.
White deflected her comments in his email to board members.
"I am sorry she was offended by the remark, but she selectively separated it from the basic substance of the remark," White wrote. "I think she simply missed the point and wanted something with which to be offended."
Advocacy groups are asking White to apologize or at least explain what he meant.
"I think it's a teachable moment for him and all of us. These words carry far more meaning than a short, five-letter word," Dickerson said. "He will learn from this and continue to do a great job for Indianapolis kids."
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