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Leading Italian American Orgs to Hold Teacher Training Session on Stereotyping at Renbrook School

For Immediate Release:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2003 -- The three leading national Italian American organizations will conduct a faculty training session next week on the harmfulness of stereotyping Italian Americans at the Renbrook School, an independent elementary and middle school in West Hartford, Conn.

The session for about 60 faculty and staff is Monday, Feb. 3 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. at the Renbrook School on 2865 Albany Ave. in West Hartford.

At the invitation of Renbrook Head of School Jane Shipp, representatives from the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA) and Unico will meet with Renbrook faculty and staff to discuss how Italian Americans are affected by the current stereotyping of them by the U.S. entertainment, advertising and news media.

The school's initiative stems from an incident which occurred during the Renbrook Revue, an evening program of skits written and performed by Renbrook students in October 2002.

One skit, written and performed by ninth graders, attempted to satirize the current Olive Garden restaurant ads on television. An Italian American parent was offended by the skit's loutish portrayal of Italian Americans and criticized the school in a Hartford Courant op-ed column published in November 2002.

After receiving a letter of complaint from OSIA, as well as messages from concerned private individuals from all over the country, Mrs. Shipp offered to hold the above-mentioned faculty training session.

In her letter of response to OSIA, Mrs. Shipp wrote, I am so sorry that the skit our 14-year olds wrote has been hurtful. I wish I could undo it. Since that is not possible, I want to turn our energy to repairing whatever damage has been done, and to making this into a good learning experience for everybody at the school.

OSIA is the largest and oldest national organization for men and women of Italian heritage in the United States. OSIA works at the community, national and international levels to promote the heritage and culture of an estimated 26 million Italian Americans, the nation's fifth largest ethnic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.