Two Boston School Committee members who reportedly exchanged texts insulting the neighborhood of West Roxbury — disparaging residents as “westie whites” — have resigned.
The city released resignation notices from Chair Alex Oliver-Davila and member Lorna Rivera on Tuesday afternoon, along with statements from them both.
During a meeting last fall, Oliver-Davila is alleged to have texted Rivera “I hate WR” — West Roxbury — to which Rivera is said to have replied that she is “sick of westie whites” — to which Oliver-Davila said “Me too I really feel Like saying that!!!!”
The Boston Herald filed a records request more than 10 days ago for the texts in question — but the district has failed to provide them within the time allotted by law, breaking the rules as it often does with records requests.
The Boston Globe reported on the texts on Monday.
Both of the school committee members attempted to blame racism against them for their texts.
Rivera wrote that she is “being targeted as a Latina gender studies professor who teaches about racism, patriarchy and oppression.” She said she’s received “racist threatening emails” and is resigning to “recuperate.”
She didn’t mention the texts she sent at all. Oliver-Davila did, saying she apologized “for my comments and the hurt they have caused,” calling the texts “inappropriate.”
“All humans have biases and I will continue to work on getting beyond my own personal biases,” Oliver-Davila said.
She said what people were saying in the meeting “brought me back” to racism she’d experienced, adding “I regrettably allowed myself to do what others have done to me.”
The texts came during a school committee meeting over exam school policy. During the same meeting last year, then-chair Michael Loconto was caught seeming to mock Asian names during a Zoom call. He then resigned, which led to Oliver-Davila taking the reins.
Acting Mayor Kim Janey, when asked if the recent string of school committee incidents warrants a deeper look into the body, avoided the question saying she “appreciates” the work of the school committee, adding, “Certainly we want to ensure that this body in particular is well-represented and with the loss of school committee members, Latina school committee members, it is a huge void, a huge loss.”
Pressure had been building on Oliver-Davila to resign, following Rivera’s departure Friday.
“Insulting an entire community breaks trust & hampers the board’s ability to improve Boston’s public education,” City Council President Pro Tempore Matt O’Malley, who represents West Roxbury, wrote on Facebook.
He said Oliver-Davila called him to apologize — a move he said took “guts” — but said she nonetheless has to go.
“Unfortunately, the trust has been broken irrevocably between many BPS families & members of the policy setting body,” O’Malley said, referring to Boston Public Schools. “With the enormous challenges ahead of us as a district, we can’t afford further divisions.”
In a statement, Andrea Campbell, city councilor and a mayoral candidate, said, “It’s sad that it is still difficult for us to address the racism and division in our City in an open, productive, and respectful way, but that is work we MUST do as both leaders and residents if we are going to move Boston forward as a city that is truly equitable and welcoming to all.”
Annissa Essaibi-George, who chairs the city council’s education committee and is also a mayoral candidate, said, “I was incredibly disappointed to hear about the text messages sent between two members of the school committee. All neighborhoods add value to the conversations and decisions made about Boston’s schools.”
There have been four resignations from the Boston School Committee in less than a year: Oliver-Davila, Rivera, Loconto and student representative Khymani James, who stepped down in March.
James told the Herald, “It’s unfortunate the Boston School Committee has lost its Latina leadership representation and I do not believe that Lorna Rivera or Alexandra Oliver-Davila should have resigned solely off of their remarks against white people.”
James isn’t the only one sad to see Rivera go. Ruby Reyes of the Boston Education Justice Alliance, said Rivera was “the lone ranger” of the group, often standing out as the only “no” vote on some controversial issues.
Both James and Reyes said the recent school committee fallout shows the need for an elected board.
The next school committee meeting, which will take place virtually, is scheduled for 5 p.m. June 16.
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