Letter to the Editor: Some school panel members must apologize, resign for racist actions

To the Editor:

People in Boston like me, with the last name Murphy, can rest assured that no one in public office and no members of the Boston School Committee are going to make fun of our names.

In Boston, if your name is Murphy or Robinson or Sullivan or O’Neil, no one mocks you as an outsider. We have the privilege of being considered insiders here, just because of our names.

But if your last name is Ng or Peng or Wong or Chen, forget it. You may think you are welcome, as a resident and taxpayer of our city, to address the school committee as a valued member of the community. But for our current Boston School Committee, the message is clear: Asians Need Not Apply.

This Boston School committee will ridicule you on open mics. They will say they had to resist laughing at the racist tweets they were receiving. They will say that there are “too many Asian students” in our exam schools. This Boston School Committee does not respect Asian children and families, and the records and transcripts of their meetings prove it.

The text messages that were sent secretly by school committee members to each other during last month’s meeting are appalling. They are racist. They are unwelcoming to our Asian neighbors and friends. And they make it abundantly clear that this committee, and especially its new exam school admission policy, were tainted from the very beginning by anti-Asian bias.

At the Oct. 8 meeting, member Geri Robinson tasked the panel’s Working Group with reducing the number of successful Asian applicants to our exam schools. At the Oct. 21 meeting, member Lorna Rivera secretly texted she almost “laughed out loud” when she heard Michael Loconto’s racist joke. Then vice-chair Oliver-Davila secretly texted that the racist tweets she was receiving during Asian parents’ testimony were funny.

Committee member O’Neil was secretly texting the chair during last month’s meeting, suggesting plausible lies he might use to cover up his racist remarks. O’Neil, Sullivan, and Davila were texting each other about the vote before it was taken and while Asian parents were testifying before them about their heartfelt opposition to the new policy.

The Boston School Committee has a long and ugly history of racism. Allowing that ugly past to be a part of our city’s present is unacceptable. Anti-Asian racism cannot be tolerated by the Boston Public Schools, our mayor, or our City Council.

School Committee members Robinson, Rivera, O’Neil, and Oliver-Davila need to apologize publicly to the Asian community of Boston and to resign their positions immediately. The committee needs to cancel the new exam school policy vote from last month because it made a mockery of any kind of transparency or democratic spirit, and because it was written and supported by School Committee members whose racist remarks are now public, permanently damaging this body’s reputation.

- Darragh Murphy