Highland Park High School administrators have issued an apology to best-selling author Jamie Ford after the student assembly suddenly burst into applause while he spoke about Japanese internment camps.
Ford, author of “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” visited the high school in Dallas, Texas, as part of its Highland Park Literary Festival.
He said the students began clapping and cheering for no reason when he tried to talk, according to FOX 4 News.
Posting on Facebook and his website, Ford said: “Then as I opened my mouth to speak again—you began clapping. As I tried to answer questions you began clapping. For twenty minutes, as I tried to wrap up my presentation, you clapped and cheered randomly, a thousand students, trolling me.”
Ford, whose father is of Chinese descent, thought it was a “brief moment of impoliteness,” the freshman and sophomore classes even cheered at the topic of his book — the incarceration of American-Japanese citizens during World War II.
“Then you clapped and cheered the Japanese Internment. You couldn’t resist,” he wrote.
Ford called the students part of the educational system that gave the world Levi Pettit, a Highland Park graduate who was expelled from the University of Oklahoma in 2015 for a racist fraternity chant.
“In coming to Highland Park High School, I thought that was an anomaly by an immature alum, a racially insensitive apple in a barrel of healthy fruit. But now I’m not so sure,” Ford went on.
He commended the staff, volunteer organizers, as well as the students who apologized on their classmates’ behalf.
“This place is awesome, but half the kids are basically corrupt politicians in the making and future date rapists.’ They even used an acronym, the FDRC, the Future Date Rape Club. (Please tell me that’s just a joke.),” Ford wrote of the messages he received from students.
Buddhist Japanese-American author, Jan Morrill, who attended HP LitFest on the same day as Ford, said in a blog post that while it was nice of some students to make a public apology on Facebook, “why didn’t anyone stand up and say something? Students? Staff? And most of all, the principal, who was apparently present?”
— Jan Morrill (@janmorrill) February 26, 2017
According to WFAA, the school apologized in a statement: “HP LitFest is a wonderful and invaluable annual event that has brought Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award, and National Book Award winners to Highland Park High School. It is a hallmark partnership between our school and community, which allows our students and teachers to interact with dozens of writers and artists from around the world each year.
“Unfortunately, the behavior of some of our students during this year’s keynote presentation was not at the standard that we expect. We value the current and past authors who make this event possible, and we will work with our students to improve as a result of this experience.“