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Boston School Committee Chair Resigns After Outrage Over His Mocking Of Asian American Names

Michael Loconto, chair of the Boston School Committee, has resigned after he apparently mocked the names of Asian American commenters on a hot mic.

Loconto's remarks — made while he thought his microphone was muted — were caught during a recorded Zoom call and heard by dozens of parents and advocates discussing a controversial change to the city's prestigious "exam schools."

The backlash came swiftly, with prominent community members flagging Loconto's remarks as racist and calling for his ouster just hours after the meeting ended.

Editor's Note: An audio recording of Loconto's remarks is below. Listeners may find them offensive.

The startling disruption came hours into Wednesday's remote committee meeting, during which more than 170 community members weighed in on a plan to suspend the exam requirement to enter the city's selective "exam schools" for one year.

Most Asian and white commenters spoke in opposition to the change, saying its consideration of ZIP codes and their median incomes will unfairly disadvantage their children. Meanwhile, Black and Latino commenters tended to speak predominantly in favor — saying it would represent an important step beyond from the district's history of racism.

As the measure passed unanimously, around two in the morning, Loconto called it "the proudest moment" of his 18 years in public service — precisely because it set Boston, with its memories of riots over busing, on a course to greater "equity of access." (If it works as projected, the change will open dozens of coveted exam-school seats to Black and Latino students.)

As he announced his support, all but securing unanimity, Loconto — who grew up in Florida — gave an impassioned speech on his adoptive hometown.

"As you move through your daily life in Boston, in Massachusetts — we like to think that we're liberal, we like to think that we're open and accepting," he said.

"But there really is that divide that exists," he added. "Sometimes it simmers right below the surface."

But meanwhile, anger at his earlier mocking was brewing, with several city councilors — among them Andrea Campbell (now a mayoral candidate), Kim Janey and Annissa Essaibi-George — calling for Loconto's resignation on social media.

Loconto released a statement apologizing early Thursday:

"It was not ever my intention to mock anyone," he wrote. "I know what was in my head and in my heart but I make no excuses. I know how my words were heard and how they hurt. I have always tried to lead my life, publicly and privately, by treating people with dignity and respect. To those who I offended, I offer again my sincerest apology and ask for your forgiveness."

In a statement, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said that Loconto notified him of his decision to resign on Wednesday morning.

"While he conveyed to me his personal embarrassment and his desire to seek forgiveness, his comments were hurtful and wrong," Walsh wrote.

The mayor described Loconto — who has served as the committee's chair since 2018 — as "someone who has done important and difficult work for the people of Boston, and especially our children," before adding that "we cannot accept the disparagement of members of our community."

On Thursday afternoon, Campbell called for the next school committee chair to be a person of color.

“What made it incredibly sad is, here we are talking about inequities in our education system," she said. "... Then to have it turn into a conversation where the leader of that body — a public servant — would be caught saying racist remarks, I think it signified to many that there is still incredible work for us to do in this city.”

This article was originally published on October 22, 2020.

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Max Larkin Twitter Reporter, Edify
Max Larkin is a multimedia reporter for Edify, WBUR's education vertical.

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