School Committee Chair Resigns, Saying His Mocking Comments Require Consequences

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Boston School Committee Chair Michael Loconto resigned Thursday morning after an unmuted mic caught him mocking ethnic names during a virtual public committee meeting.

Michael Loconto was appointed to the Boston School Committee in 2014, and became chairperson in 2018.

Late Wednesday night after more than six hours into a school committee hearing, Loconto was overheard making fun of Asian people's names who had signed up to testify at the hearing. The hearing was about delaying exam school admissions tests for a year due to COVID-19, which the committee would vote unanimously in favor of.

Loconto quickly apologized for what he said, and would apologize again on Thursday morning, as well as submit his resignation to Mayor Marty Walsh. The mayor said Loconto's comments were "hurtful and wrong," while accepting his resignation. Loconto was appointed by Walsh.

Loconto tweeted it was never his attention to mock anyone, adding he makes no excuses for what he said.

He said he spent the early hours of Thursday morning reflecting on the meeting and "the harm my words have caused for BPS families, staff, my fellow School Committee members and the community." He added he wished he was celebrating the committee's work to "adopt an equitable and merit-based temporary exception to the admissions policy for the district's exam schools in light of the current twin public health crises of structural racism and COVID-19."

Twelve of Boston's 13 city councilors, as well state Rep. Nika Elugardo, D-15th Suffolk, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, D-2nd Suffolk, state Rep. Russell Holmes, D-6th Suffolk, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, released a statement on Thursday night. District 3 City Councilor Frank Baker was the lone councilor to not be part of the joint statement.

During the public testimony portion of last night’s virtual Boston School Committee meeting, Chair Michael Loconto was heard making comments mocking the names of several Asian American residents who signed up to testify.

These comments were not only deeply offensive, but blatantly racist and harmful to our efforts to create policy in partnership with community members impacted by these important decisions. Many individuals in our communities have faced this type of racism our entire lives. This behavior has been normalized and emboldened by the hateful rhetoric of this current Presidential administration and its allies, recently highlighted in Sen. David Purdue’s public mocking of Vice Presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris’ name. We cannot let this stand in Boston.

Names carry deep significance and are fundamental to our identity and pride as a people. And yet our names have historically been weaponized for racist rhetoric, feeding stereotypes that cause so many to be seen as perpetual foreigners in this country. Last night’s incident reinforces not only the history of racial discrimination, but also a pattern of residents and families of color being shut out of important decisions and spaces of power in our city.

This type of discrimination cannot and will not be tolerated from any leader who has the privilege of serving our communities, especially at a time when we should all be coming together to solve the crises stemming from this pandemic.

Mr. Loconto’s resignation is a step in the right direction. But we must not lose focus. We must restore trust with BPS families, and urge action to ensure accessibility, inclusion, and equity in all decisions in the City of Boston, Suffolk County, and Commonwealth of Massachusetts

 

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