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Sons of Italy® Charges Batavia School Play Stereotypes Italian Americans

Press Contact: Kylie Cafiero, (202) 547-2900 kcafiero@osia.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. - November 7, 2006 - A play to be performed at the Rotolo Middle School this month stereotypes Italian Americans and is "most inappropriate entertainment" for children, charges the Sons of Italy® Commission for Social Justice® (CSJ), the anti-defamation arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), the oldest and largest Italian American organization in the United States.

The play, entitled "Fuggedaboudit," subtitled "a little mobster comedy," will be performed by the "Bada Bing Players" to the school's children and their parents Nov. 17 and 18th. It was written by Matthew Myers who teaches drama and communications at the school.

Apparently inspired by the HBO series, The Sopranos, the play's plot involves characters with Italian last names who are mobsters running an Italian restaurant while under surveillance by the FBI. They speak ungrammatical English with heavy New York accents.

In early October, a concerned parent whose child attends the school sent a copy of the play to OSIA's national headquarters in Washington, D.C. For more than three weeks, from October 10 through November 3, OSIA, its anti-defamation arm, the CSJ as well as OSIA's state chapter in Illinois, wrote and telephoned the Rotolo school principal, Dr. Donald McKinney as well as Dr. Jack Barshinger, superintendent of schools in Batavia, expressing serious concerns about the play's stereotyping and requesting that the performances be cancelled.

In response both Drs. McKinney and Barshinger denied that the play stereotyped Italian Americans and confirmed that it would be performed. Dr. Barshinger said that the parent involved should schedule a "conflict resolution" meeting with the teacher, Matt Myers.

Both officials also noted that since this is "a local issue" they would rather hear from local parents instead of "an organization in Washington, DC."

"We do not understand why they give greater weight to the complaints of ‘local' people than to the biggest Italian American organization in the country," says CSJ President Albert De Napoli, Esq. "Would they ignore a complaint from the NAACP or the Jewish Anti-Defamation League? Ethnic stereotyping is unacceptable no matter who complains about it," he says.

The CSJ and OSIA are "stunned" by the inappropriateness of the school officials' response, De Napoli says. "They surely would not allow Mr. Myers to put on a black-face Minstrel Show or a play that denigrated American Indians, Latinos or Jewish Americans," he says. "Why is it acceptable to cast characters of Italian heritage in such an unflattering light and present them to impressionable children?"

In an Oct. 18 letter to both Drs. Barshinger and McKinney, the Sons of Italy® CSJ requested the following:

The CSJ requests that the documentary be shown at a full faculty meeting of the Rotolo School as well as to the students and will provide the school with a copy.

"We find this play offensive," says Anthony Baratta, president of the Grand Lodge of Illinois, OSIA's state chapter. "And we intend to give our full support to the parents and students who object to it. We will not give up until these performances are cancelled," Baratta says.

Want to add your voice to ours? Email Superintendent of schools in Batavia, Dr. Jack Barshinger jack.barshinger@bps101.net. Email Rotolo school principal, Dr. Donald McKinney at don.mckinney@bps101.net.

The Commission for Social Justice® is the anti-defamation arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), the largest and oldest national organization in the U.S. for men and women of Italian heritage. Founded in 1905, today OSIA has a network of more than 700 lodges or chapters coast to coast.