Two Boston public school officials resigned over texts they sent each other disparaging white people from a local neighborhood, the Boston Globe reported Monday.
Boston School Committee Member Lorna Rivera resigned Friday before the text messages from a conversation with the committee’s chair Alexandra Oliver-Dávila were about to be made public, according to the Boston Globe.
A second Boston School Committee member, Lorna Rivera, has resigned due to racially charged observations made about parents during a lengthy public hearing last year about the exam school admissions process. https://t.co/HtXM7eKasz
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) June 8, 2021
“Sick of Westie whites,” Rivera reportedly texted during an October meeting, referring to the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. The meeting was focusing on a proposal to temporarily eliminate the admissions test for the city’s exam schools, and instead use grades, zip codes and other scores for admissions. Oliver-Dávila agreed with Rivera, responding “Me too. I really feel like saying that.”
Facing growing calls for her resignation from elected officials, Alexandra Oliver-Dávila resigned from the Boston School Committee, city officials announced on Tuesday.
She is the second person to resign as chair in less than a year amid a public uproar. https://t.co/U4Wr5MSV0f
— Boston Globe Education (@GlobeEducation) June 8, 2021
“Wait until the white racists start yelling at us,” Rivera, a professor of women’s studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston, reportedly texted during the exchange.
“Whatever,” Oliver-Dávila replied. “They’re delusional. I hate WR [West Roxbury].”
The Boston Globe had requested documents showing exchanges between committee members during the October meeting, but the texts were withheld from the newspaper, which appeared to break public records laws.
Oliver-Dávila reportedly told Boston Globe columnist Marcela García that she planned to stay on the committee despite exposure to the text exchange, but Boston.com indicated Tuesday that Oliver-Dávila also resigned.
The two latest resignations push the total to three since October, when the school’s committee chairman Michael Loconto resigned after he was heard seemingly mocking the names of people who were identified to speak at the committee meeting, according to Boston.com. His comments were made the same night as the text exchange.
Loconto had led the proposal to change the admissions process for the district’s elite school, and the measure was passed, ultimately leading to more students of color gaining admission to multiple prestigious schools for the fall, according to the Boston Globe.
West Roxbury parents opposed the policy change, and local officials representing the neighborhood, including City Councilor Matt O’Malley and state Rep. Edward Coppinger, called for their resignations, according to Boston.com
It was unclear why the text exchange only surfaced several months after the public records request was made. Rivera said the timing was deliberate and blamed the “right-wing.”
“This is a right-wing coordinated effort to derail [the] BPS exam school vote,” she told the Boston Globe. The district is set to vote on permanent changes to its admissions policy for the three elite schools.
“The timing and leak of these texts were intentional and an inside job,” Rivera added.
Oliver-Dávila reportedly said she “felt like it was strategy [to leak the texts] at this moment in time,” and that someone held onto the text exchange for a long time.
“I do feel it’s being weaponized against the equity work that we’re doing,” she reportedly said.
Both Rivera and Oliver-Dávila apologized for the remarks. Oliver-Dávila said the texts were sent “in the heat of the moment” during “a moment of so much negativity about our children of color,” according to Boston.com.
Read resignation letters from Boston School Committee chair Alexandra Oliver-Davila and member Lorna Rivera: https://t.co/ra0KjmO0uu
— Boston Globe Education (@GlobeEducation) June 8, 2021
Rivera said she received “racist, threatening emails and social media personal attacks” from people who opposed the school’s “racial equity” policy changes, according to Boston.com.
“Nationally and locally, there are white supremacist groups that are coordinating efforts to ban the teaching of ethnic studies, diversity and inclusion activities, and other racial equity work in our public schools and universities,” Rivera wrote in her letter of resignation, according to Boston.com.
“I am being targeted as a Latina gender studies professor who teaches about racism, patriarchy, and oppression,” she added in the letter.
Although Oliver-Dávila said she regretted the texts, she said she was not ashamed of “the feelings from history that made me write those words,” citing her “lived experience” and commitment to “antiracist work,” according to Boston.com.
Rivera was a supporter of the suspension of the Boston Public Schools’ advanced program for high-performing students and said at a meeting that she was “very very disturbed” by statistics showing that nearly 60% of fourth-graders in the program in one of the district’s schools were white even though most third-graders enrolled in the school are Hispanic and black. (RELATED: Boston Public Schools Suspend Advanced Program Because Officials Were ‘Disturbed’ By The Number Of Asian And White Students)
“Antiracism” initiatives typically seek to eliminate merit-based programs and implement race-based policy and racial activism training. Followers of “antiracism” believe viewing all policy through the lens of race is necessary to address racial disparities.
San Francisco is among the cities to pursue the elimination of merit-based admissions. The city’s education officials voted to end merit-based admissions at one of the nation’s most prestigious public schools, Lowell High School, and instead decided to switch to a lottery-based system in a purported effort to address racism.