A lunchtime staple of students for years, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich could be considered one of the more popular items found in the sack lunches of school children.
But in conjunction with recent equity training in local Portland schools, one principal is raising questions about the mention of the sandwich, arguing it has broader implications about race, the Portland Tribune reports.
The sandwich was reportedly mentioned in a lesson plan last year. Verenice Gutierrez from the Harvey Scott K-8 School used it as an example of a subtle form of racism in language, according to the report.
“What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?” Gutierrez said, according to the Tribune. “Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.”
As part of a training program known as "Courageous Conversations" that has been phased into Portland schools in recent years, the Tribune reports that staff members at Gutierrez's school have been going through trainings, classroom observations and exercises, such as reading a news article and then talking about it from the perspective of “white privilege."
The organization behind the program is Pacific Educational Group. According to the group's website, their aim is to help minority students through initiatives that address racial educational disparities, "intentionally, explicitly, and comprehensively."
Since word of the news spread, however, several bloggers and Twitter users took issue with the claim that a sandwich might be racially charged and deemed the principal's statements absurd.
The author of a post on Twitchy.com wrote that "The sane are quick to rightly mock this latest asinine claim."
The author then featured a selection of tweets mocking the implication that mention of the sandwich has anything to do with race issues:
"[W]hat's the verdict on grilled cheese? Racist? Sexist?" one person tweeted.
"All sandwichs are racist! It's the name "sandwich" the poor tortas are discriminated against!" another wrote.
Robb Cowie, the communications director for Portland Public schools, told Fox News that the district was on board with Gutierrez's comments.
“Persistently we have not done a good enough job educating students of color and specifically African-American students,” Cowie told Fox. "That’s what the program is addressing. How can we find a way to support African American students, their families – so that we are producing better outcomes and narrowing the achievement gap.”
Recent data from the U.S. Department of Education highlighted racial inequity in a survey of 72,000 schools. Minority students faced harsher discipline and were more likely to be taught by lower paid teachers with less experience than white students, according to a press release.