BOSTON (AP) – The president of the Boston school committee resigned on Monday amid criticism of racist texts she shared with another committee member denigrating student families, city officials said on Tuesday .
The texts were sent to a committee meeting last October as the board considered a proposal to temporarily remove the entrance test requirement at city examination schools.
“Best school committee meeting ever. I try not to cry ”, wrote the president of the school committee, Alexandra Oliver-Davila, to another member of the committee, Lorna Rivera, according to the texts obtained by the Boston Globe.
“Wait until the white racists start yelling at us,” Rivera replied. “It doesn’t matter. They’re delusional,” Oliver-Davila wrote. “I hate WR,” she texted again Rivera, a reference to the West Roxbury area.
“Fed up with the Westie whites,” Rivera replied. “Me too. I really want to say that,” Oliver-Davila wrote.
In his resignation letter, Oliver-Davila apologized for the texts and the harm they caused.
“I regret my personal texts, it was inappropriate,” she wrote. “But I’m not ashamed of the feelings of the story that made me write these words.”
Oliver-Davila expressed her comments in the context of her personal story growing up in a city where she said she was ostracized and teased, branded racial slurs, spat on and faced physical threats of violence.
During the meeting, Oliver-Davila said she felt transported to her youth when members of the public testified that she sometimes said he was racist in nature.
“It was painful. And in the heat of the moment, it made me let off steam by sending inappropriate personal texts to one of my colleagues. I unfortunately allowed myself to do what others told me to do. I did. I failed my own standards, ”she said.
In her resignation letter, Rivera did not mention the texts, but wrote that she had received “emails of racist threats and personal attacks on social media” from those who opposed the changes in admission policies to examining high schools.
“I am targeted as a teacher of Latina gender studies who teaches racism, patriarchy and oppression,” she wrote. “Due to the harassment and overwhelming stress of the school committee work, my mental and physical health has deteriorated, so I have to quit and recover.”
Acting Mayor Kim Janey said in a written statement Tuesday that the texts were “hapless and unfairly disparaged members of the Boston public school community.”
But Janey went on to praise Oliver-Davila and Rivera as “dedicated stewards of the committee and passionate advocates of Boston families.”
“As women of color who advocate for racial equity in our schools, I also understand that their comments were made in the wake of unacceptable racist death threats and attacks which were frightening, offensive and painful,” wrote Janey. “Unfortunately, their departure also leaves a void in Latin leadership within our school committee which I am determined to fill.”
Oliver-Davila had faced increasing pressure to resign.
City councilor Michelle Wu, a mayoral candidate, was among those calling for her resignation.
“It is unacceptable that any of our families or communities in Boston feel devalued or treated with contempt, and it is particularly damaging that this comes from decision makers charged with defining policies that have a profound impact on our residents,”
Oliver-Davila is the second school committee chair to resign in less than a year in Boston.
Last October, former president Michael Loconto resigned after appearing to mock Asian names in a virtual meeting.
The meeting was the same meeting where Oliver-Davila and Rivera exchanged texts that led to Oliver-Davila’s resignation.
Loconto made the comments after the names of several parents who wanted to speak were read. He apologized during the meeting and then tweeted an apology.