NJ school: Bus driver saying malls cater to ‘towel heads’ for Christmas not OK
Parsippany school officials say they're aware of — and don't tolerate — one of their employees saying malls cater to "towel heads" during the Christmas season.
"The Parsippany-Troy Hills School district prides itself on its diversity and its acceptance of all individuals and does not tolerate discrimination of any kind," the district wrote in a statement released this week. "This pride is reflective of over 1700 employees who work each day with our students, parents, and community members."
The statement said the district was aware of a Facebook post, but didn't mention the employee by name or the content of the post. It was made after bus driver Frank Atkins reportedly posted on the Rockaway Townsquare mall's Facebook page Monday a statement that included:
"Now they go politically correct and refuse to have Christmas decorations so as not to offend the towel heads. WHAT ABOUT OFFENDING US THE CHRISTIANS. My kid will never visit Santa there and I work for the Parsippany school district. I am sending the word out to all our schools and all the others to boycott your mall!"
Atkins' concern was an apparent response to a futuristic Christmas display at several Simon malls, including Townsquare.
Several of the company’s properties — also including Menlo Park Mall in Edison and Riverside Square in Hackensack – came under criticism from groups online for having Santa’s chair in what resembled a snow cave called an “enchanted glacier” without a Christmas tree or other traditional symbols of the season.
But the display was still, at its core, a Christmas celebration — with Santa the central attraction.
Simon Malls President David Contis in an email to New Jersey 101.5 described the new display as a “modern interactive experience for the family.” But after several complaints, including those of a group called "Boycott Simon Malls" on Facebook, Simon reversed course and began shipping more traditional holiday decorations to its properties.
“After listening to customer feedback, we immediately decided to reinstall our existing Christmas decor and hope our customers will join us in celebrating the Christmas season," Contis said by email.
In Parsippany's statement, it said "while we understand the value of free speech we do not condone any of our employees making discriminatory and offensive comments about any one particular group of people."
The matter was being handled as a personnel issue, the school said.
Atkins, for his part, told Parsippany Patch this week he was sorry for using a racial slur.
“I was angry and I said something I shouldn’t,” Atkins reportedly said. “I wasn’t mad at any particular person or group, but mad at the mall and what they were doing. What I said was wrong, and I apologize for that.”