San Francisco School Board Reprimands Member Over Race Comments

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The San Francisco school board voted unanimously on Tuesday to admonish Commissioner Ann Hsu for racist statements she made in a candidate poll on just education.

During the board meeting, Hsu apologized and voted for her own admonition. But she also stated that she would not resign and still plans to meet voters in the upcoming school board elections.

The meeting was held in response to a candidates questionnaire that Hsu filed last month with a local organization of public school parents. Some of her comments were condemned as racially insensitive to black and brown parents and met with public outcry from community groups and social media users.

In her questionnaire, Hsu wrote about “restoring and maintaining academic excellence” in district colleges and giving students a solid foundation “so they can succeed later in life.”

However, it was her response to a question about improving academic outcomes for marginalized students that alarmed the public. She wrote that the biggest challenges in educating black and brown students were “unstable family environments” and “lack of parental encouragement to focus on learning.” She also wrote that this forces teachers to work harder in a way “that is not fair to the teachers.”

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A week after submitting her questionnaire, after backlash, Hsu changed her answers and apologized on Twitter.

“I was trying to understand and address a serious problem and find solutions, saying things that perpetuated bias in the system,” she wrote. “My statements reflected my own limited experiences and inherent prejudices. I made a mistake and I am very sorry.”

Hsu also wrote that she is determined to do better and pledged to prioritize centering the voices of black, indigenous and other families of color in her work as governance moves forward.

Hsu, along with two other commissioners, was appointed to the board by Mayor London Breed in February. She has been working for about six months.

Her apology did little to appease outraged members of the community. In response, Dean Preston of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors went to social media to urge Hsu to resign and drop out of the race for the upcoming school board elections.

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“Her apology was an important step in addressing the damage she has done to the community,” he said. “However, when she looks at black and brown families that way, it’s hard to see how she can be an effective member of our Board of Education.”

Another supervisor, Connie Chan, issued a statement who thanked Hsu for her services before asking her to resign from her position “so that we can get back on track to ensure that all students and their families can receive the quality, equitable public education they deserve.”

The National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, the San Francisco Democratic Party, the city’s teachers’ union and a handful of parent advisory boards also called for Hsu’s resignation.

Hsu supporters used social media to defend her, citing freedom of expression, calling out the culture of cancellation and labeling Hsu a victim of Asian-American hatred.

More than 300 people have a open letter of support to Hsu, saying they understand she made a mistake, but she’s only human and “didn’t do this out of malice.” They wrote that they do not think that Hsu should resign and that this should be a “learning moment” for her. Signatories include members of the Chinese Parent Advisory Council, the Chinese American Democratic Club and AsianAmericanVoters.org.

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Tuesday’s school board meeting attracted crowds of supporters and critics. They gathered outside the central office with signs saying things like “Censure Hsu, stop black hate” and also “Support Ann Hsu, she’s good for SFUSD.” At the meeting, Pastor Arnold Townsend of the NAACP, parents and other community leaders spoke out against Hsu.

Those who attended the board meeting reported that it had to be sunk after audience members lost control and started yelling at each other. When the meeting resumed, the board of directors held the vote, which was unanimous for all seven members, including Hsu.

Hsu has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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