PTA's 'White Trash Wednesday' angers Federal Way parents

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- An electronic sign out front welcomes visitors to Sunnycrest Elementary School in the Federal Way School District; what it doesn't mention is that next week is "Teacher Appreciation Week" - and that this year's effort's aren't exactly getting an A grade from parents in the neighborhood.

"Wow. You're kidding, right?" asked Karissa Edwards, as she strolled through the neighborhood with her daughter Tuesday. "That's not appropriate for school, whether it be elementary or high school - any of it."

Edwards was looking at an email sent from the school's PTA to local parents outlining next week's Teacher Appreciation Week. The theme - "Talkin' Trash" - is broken down by day, from "Muffin Top Monday," providing breakfast to school staff, to "Tempt Me Tuesday," where teachers would get 5-minute massages on their breaks.

The biggest concern among parents, however, appeared to be over another theme: "White Trash Wednesday," where barbeque would be served to staff on garbage can lids.

"It was incredibly offensive," said Chris King, father to an 8-year old at the school. "I'm mixed race. I'm half-black and half-white, and not only do I hate the term but the term doesn't have a place in elementary school."

"Absolutely it's a derogatory term," King continued, "and I don't think anybody wants to be called ('white trash.')"

The PTA president, Amy Beckner, declined to answer questions Tuesday about where the themes came from.

"I don't have anything to say," Beckner said, before closing the front door to her home.

School staff - who have no oversight of the PTA or its actions - was first made aware of the themes on Monday afternoon, said Rudy Baca, the school principal. The events were canceled Tuesday after parents called to complain.

"There could be some offensive language in the wording," said Baca. "It was an issue. It was just unfortunate because I really value the relationship I have with the PTA. They work so hard to support our teachers and the school."

Baca said more than half the students at the school come from Latino families, and that diversity remains an important part of the school's mission.

"It is just unfortunate because (the PTA has) the very best intentions to come and support our teachers," he added.

Late Tuesday morning, the PTA president emailed an apology to parents.

"The theme: Talkin' Trash was apparently found offensive to someone, and by no means is that ever our intent," the email reads.

"I want to take the opportunity to explain a few things and where the ideas came from," the email continues. "... as far as Wednesday, if you've ever been to (the barbeque restaurant) you know they serve, and cater on trash can lids."

King, whose daughter is in second grade at the school, said he hoped diversity training might be in the future for both teachers - and parents - at the school.

"We're literally at a school where most of the students are quite a bit below the median income range for our state and our country," King said, "and here we are using terms like 'freeloader Friday' and 'white trash Wednesday.'"

"It just goes a little bit too far," he added.