By Mark E. Vogler
METHUEN — About 6,500 students in four city grammar schools took home new menus yesterday to replace the ones they got on Monday which school officials say listed "KKK Chicken Tenders" by mistake.
The menu was supposed to read "KK Chicken Tenders," short for Krispy, Krunchy, according to Methuen Schools Superintendent Judith Scannell, who called it an unfortunate typo by a longtime, "exemplary employee."
"As she was typing it, she hit a third 'K.' It was an oversight," Scannell said. "I apologize for the School District if we offended anybody. This was cleaned up immediately and a new menu sent out."
At least one, unnamed person who identified herself as the mother of a grammar school child was angry enough to call a Boston television station, which ran with the story on its nightly newscast yesterday.
But Scannell said she never heard from the irate mom or any other parents who were concerned about the mistake.
"Apparently this mom called the food service director and spoke to the office. One parent called the food service director," Scannell said. "Not one single parent had called me, my office or any of my administrators. I checked with my School Committee people and they have not received one call. The School Committee was not aware of any of this. But now, this is totally out of control."
The only people who have been calling Scannell about the menu mistake have been from the media, she said.
Meanwhile, the superintendent said she planned to meet with her staff this morning to see if any additional steps need to be taken to deal with any fallout from the "KKK" reference.
KKK is the common abbreviation for Ku Klux Klan, an infamous century-old white supremacy, terrorist group born out of the American Civil War. It was the group's murderous actions during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s which provokes discussion of a dark side of American history — and one that Methuen educators or parents may have to address this week if questioned what "KKK" stands for.
"I'm not an educator, but if my son asked me what it meant, I would try to explain it to him," City Councilor Sean Fountain said in an interview last night. "I think it's being blown more out of proportion than what really happened. I really don't think it was intended to be a negative issue or racial issue."
Fountain, whose son Cameron is an eighth-grader at the Marsh Grammar School, said he wasn't aware of the flawed menu that came home Monday. His son hasn't asked him about it either, he said.
"And I haven't gotten any calls about, so I don't think it's an issue," he said. "Somebody made a mistake, and it was corrected. That's it," he said.
"If the parent was upset about it, she should have voiced it with the principal or the superintendent," he said.
Mayor Stephen Zanni, who chairs the School Committee, said the superintendent briefed him and other members of the committee about the mistake yesterday.
"It was all based on a typographical error, so I don't think there was any intent," the mayor said. He added that nobody has called his office to complain.
"The first thing I thought of, someone had a brain freeze for a moment," said School Committee member Deborah Quinn.
"I would hope no one would be that insensitive to do that on purpose. I know the superintendent would immediately take action (if it were intentional)," she said.
Quinn said no parents called her to complain about the menu mistake.
None of the other school committee members interviewed last night reported receiving calls from angry parents. Most suggested the typo would have been corrected and gone unnoticed by the public had the typo not become a news story. They said the superintendent and staff responded to the situation well.