The San Francisco School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to admonish Commissioner Ann Hsu for racially inflammatory comments she made in a candidate questionnaire about equitable education.
During a special meeting on Tuesday night, Hsu apologized and voted for her own admonition, but said she will not step down and still plans to face voters in the upcoming school board election.
The meeting was held in response to Hsu’s responses to a candidate questionnaire by a group called SF Parent Action on the Education of Marginalized Students, in which she wrote that the biggest challenges in raising Black and Brown students were “unstable family environments” and “a lack of parents are encouragement to focus on learning.” She also wrote that this forces teachers to work harder in a way “that isn’t fair to the teachers.”
Critics and supporters of Hsu rallied ahead of the board meeting, holding signs with messages such as “censor Hsu, stop black hate” and “support Ann Hsu, she is good for SFUSD.” Rev. Arnold Townsend of the NAACP, other community leaders, and parents spoke out against Hsu.
The participants of the board meeting reported that it was forced into a temporary hiatus after viewers started yelling at each other.
Hsu did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
A week after submitting her questionnaire, following backlash from community groups and social media users, Hsu changed her answers and apologized on Twitter.
“I was trying to understand and address a serious problem and looking for solutions, and in doing so I was saying things that already perpetuate prejudice in the system,” she wrote. “My statements reflect my own limited experiences and inherent biases. I made a mistake and I’m deeply sorry.”
Hsu also wrote that she was committed to doing better and vowed to prioritize the voices of Black, Indigenous and other families of color in her work with the board.
Her apology did little to calm outraged members of the community.
The National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, the San Francisco Democratic Party, the city’s teachers’ union, several board members, and a handful of parents’ councils called on Hsu to resign.
“Her apology was an important step in addressing the damage she has caused to the community,” Supervisor Dean Preston said on twitter. “However, when that’s how she sees black and brown families, it’s hard to see how she can be an effective member of our board of education.”
In a statement Tuesday, the San Francisco Unified School District said Hsu’s written responses “undermine and run counter to the beliefs of the Board of Education” and that “all students can succeed regardless of their race, zip code, income level, or any other factor.” .”
Hsu was appointed to the school board along with two other commissioners by Mayor London Breed in February after the president, vice president and one other member were removed by voters.
SF Parent Action, which supported the removal of two of the three board members involved, said it called a meeting between black and brown families from its network and Hsu after receiving its questionnaire.
“It’s worth noting that the same families have met with Commissioner Hsu on several occasions,” said Meredith Dodson, executive director of the organization. “She has worked with them over the past six months to learn more about their families, their children and their schools, which we appreciate very much and which they appreciate. But that was clearly very upsetting for most of them.”
Given the families’ history with Hsu, Dodson said their initial reaction was shock, followed by disappointment.
“They’re not new to this tale, and hearing it from Ann Hsu — whom they respected and believed in and felt represented by — really hurt them,” Dodson said. “All of a sudden, they lost faith in her.”
Dodson noted that while the families condemned Hsu, they did not ask her to resign.
“Despite the injury and the damage, they seemed to want to give her a chance,” Dodson said. “They don’t immediately trust that she can do it, but want to see some growth and change from her.”
On social media, Hsu supporters cited freedom of speech, shouted “cancel culture” and labeled Hsu a victim of Asian-American hatred.
More than 300 people have signed open letter of support for Hsu, saying that they understand that she made a mistake, but that she is only human and “didn’t do it out of malice”. They wrote that they do not believe Hsu should resign and that this should be a “teaching moment” for her. Signatories include members of the Chinese Parent Advisory Council, the Chinese American Democratic Club, and AsianAmericanVoters.org.
“I think people are just sick of politics,” said Dodson of SF Parent Action. “They want our district to focus solely on our students. We still have so much to do to make these students better.”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-03/ann-hsu-admonished-racist-remarks-san-francisco-school-board San Francisco school board rebukes member Ann Hsu over race remarks