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School summit resolves ‘Aunt Jemima’ controversy

Updated: March 30, 2013 2:16AM

NORTH CHICAGO — The controversy over a remark some took as a racial slur during a recent girls basketball game between teams from North Chicago and Lake Forest was hashed out in a meeting Monday.

Members of the NAACP Lake County Branch met with officials from North Chicago District 187 and Lake Forest District 67, and coaches of the two teams from Neal and Deer Path middle schools to agree on “corrective action” after a Deer Path player yelled “You got Aunt Jemima” during a free throw attempt at a Jan. 17 tournament in Highland Park.

While some on the North Chicago team, made up of blacks and Hispanics, took immediate offense at the remark, those on the all-white Lake Forest team said it was merely a “good luck” wish from one player to another.

“Everybody agrees it was an offensive remark,” said Jennifer Witherspoon, local NAACP president.

“Whether or not you believe the excuse is beside the point. We wanted to move toward a resolution.”

The NAACP asked for apologies, one in writing and one to be made in person, as well as racial sensitivity training for the Deer Path team and the Lake Forest district agreed, Witherspoon said.

Deer Path Principal Renee DeVore could not be reached for comment.

The Deer Path team had been scheduled to visit their counterparts at Neal Math and Science Academy on Monday. But the meeting was canceled after a flurry of media interest, said Ben Martindale, interim superintendent of North Chicago schools.

Martindale acknowledged that Deer Path had forfeited several games held at Neal, including one this year. Two of the forfeitures were due to miscommunication, he said. Deer Path refused to send its team to another game after someone set off a firecracker during a previous game.

“Some parents thought it was gunfire,” said Martindale.

As a result of that incident, high school students have been banned from junior high games, Martindale said.

Martindale said the ‘Aunt Jemima’ remark was “way out bounds.”

“What’s important is the girls (from Deer Path) do come out and apologize and that the girls do get a chance to meet,” Martindale said.

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