The students of Thomasboro Academy, many of whom happen to be minorities, recently went on a field trip to the Hall Family Farm in Charlotte, North Carolina. Once there, however, they found their good times dampened by a tour guide's racially insensitive comment.
Volunteer chaperone Kathy Capps told WSOCTV what happened:
Once the children were brought to the tour guide, she said, 'You're not here to pick cotton today. You're not here to pick fruit. You were here to pick pumpkins.
Thomasboro Academy's principal and assistant principal called the farm to speak to management, but were disappointed by the Hall family's response, prompting Capps to visit once again in person.
Capps told Mr. Hall:
These kinds of comments hurt. They're not appropriate, and I told him how upset the school was.
Kevin Hall, owner of the farm, defended his employee, saying this was all a misunderstanding:
It was an extremely poor choice of words, stupid, but there was no malice.
Hall has called the school himself to apologize, and also said the employee in question has done the same:
There have been zero issues in 11 years of doing business so, it's very unsettling.
Capps believes the school administration deserves an in-person apology:
I look at those kids like they're my kids. They belong to our community and it's not acceptable.
Some people believe the tour guide should be fired — and think the farm is irredeemable in the community.
Hall has stated, however, that the employee is a very close family friend, and that he would "close down the business before firing her."
The farm later released a statement that ended by saying:
I want to conclude this message with my personal testament to the quality and decency of all our employees. Our employees are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, Caucasian and African American and Asian American, I am Asian American, and we all work together to provide a wholesome, family-centric farm experience for all customers. In particular, I want to share with you the character of the tour guide whose extremely poor choice of words sparked this incident. She has been a dear friend of my family since 1992. She and many members of her family have been faithful employees from the very first day that we opened in 2008. She treats every human being with respect and kindness. For the past two years, in the off season, she and her husband have spent the winter months caring for orphans and teaching English in the Philippines and Thailand at their own personal expense. Yes, she made an extremely poor choice of words, but she made every effort to apologize and dispel the misunderstanding directly to the persons that were offended. My family's friendship with she and her family is vastly more important to me than the continued operation of our farm, and I will not punish her for a stupid choice of words, a comment made with absolutely no innuendo or ill will.
It's unclear if any further action between the school and the farm will resolve this problem. One thing is certain: the Hall farm employee who made the comment will be a lot more careful about what they say in the future.