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Editorial: A lynching at PS 161

Ms. Lichtman was at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 25 when she reportedly got into a conversation with the head of the parents association at PS 206. The principal said she wanted to take pictures of the children at her school. The woman suggested writing to Polaroid or Canon. Ms. Lichtman replied that "children of color don't pose well for Polaroid." This was deemed to be "insensitive" although "not malicious."

We don't know what Ms. Lichtman meant. But we can guess. If we are right, her comment had nothing to do with race relations and everything to do with technology. Most cameras with an automatic flash average out the lighting needed for all objects in range of the camera lens. If someone with very dark skin stands next to someone with very light skin or someone is wearing a bright white shirt, the darker face will not get enough light and features will be lost. With a Polaroid, this cannot be corrected. Is this what the principal was trying to say?

Her remarks made in casual conversation to another adult should have offended no one. Unfortunately, we live in age when some people go out of their way to be offended. It strikes us that Ms. Lichtman was trying to be politically correct, that's why she used the term "children of color." (Perhaps parents of Caucasian children should be offended by this popular expression that makes their children colorless.)

In fairness, her remark should be seen in context of her tenure at the Arthur Ashe School. By all accounts, she is a dedicated educator who cares sincerely for all of the children at PS 161. Parents say she has often reached into her own pockets to buy things for the school. No one can point to a pattern of racism. The best that the PC police could do was come up with comments she allegedly made about clean clothes and "how Catholics are."

Were they not gutless wonders, the officials at District 28 would have stood up for this principal. They did not. Superintendent Neil Krenik had her transferred and warned her not to make comments about race, religion or ethnicity at her new school. If he believed for a second that Ms. Lichtman was a racist, he would not have left her in charge of any school.

School Board 28 President Shirley Huntley gave Ms. Lichtman a written warning. "It is a tragedy," Ms. Huntley told the Daily News, "that a school by the name of Arthur Ashe will be labeled a school where people are making comments that are basically racial."

No, Ms. Huntley, the real tragedy is that the leadership of this district does not have the courage to stand up to a handful of race baiters. It is a tragedy that dedicated professionals who give their lives to educate our children have to live in fear that some innocent remark will be taken out of context and used to destroy a career.

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