Los Angeles Times
S.F. school board censures member
Ann Hsu votes for her own admonishment but refuses to resign after race comments.
The San Francisco school board voted unanimously Tuesday to admonish Commissioner Ann Hsu over racially incendiary statements she made in a candidate questionnaire about equitable education.
During a special meeting Tuesday evening, Hsu apologized and voted for her own admonishment but said that she would not resign and that she still plans to face voters in the upcoming school board election.
The meeting was held in response to Hsu’s answers about educating marginalized students on a candidate questionnaire from a group called SF Parent Action, in which 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.”
Critics and supporters of Hsu rallied outside the board meeting, holding signs with messages such as “Censure Hsu, stop Black hate” and “Support Ann Hsu, she’s good for SFUSD.” The Rev. Arnold Townsend of the NAACP, other community leaders and parents spoke out against Hsu.
Those who attended the board meeting reported that it was forced into a temporary recess after audience members began yelling at one another.
Hsu did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
A week after submitting her questionnaire, following backlash from community groups and social media users, Hsu amended her responses and apologized on Twitter.
“I was trying to understand and address a serious problem and seek solutions, and in so doing I said things that perpetuated biases already in the system,” she wrote.
“My statements reflected my own limited experiences and inherent biases. I made a mistake, and I am deeply sorry.”
Her apology did not do much to pacify outraged members of the community.
The National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, the San Francisco Democratic Party, the city’s teachers union, multiple members of the Board of Supervisors and a handful of parent advisory councils called on Hsu to step down.
Hsu was appointed to the school board by Mayor London Breed in February, along with two other commissioners, after the board’s president, vice president and one other member were recalled by voters.
SF Parent Action, which supported the recall of two of the three targeted board members, said it set up a meeting between Black and brown families from its network and Hsu after receiving her questionnaire.
“It’s worth noting that we’ve had the same families meet with Commissioner Hsu multiple times,” said Meredith Dodson, executive director of the organization. “She has engaged with them to learn more about their families and their kids and their schools over the last six months, which we’ve really appreciated and which they have appreciated. But this was clearly very upsetting to most of them.”
Given the families’ history with Hsu, Dodson said, their initial reaction was shock followed by disappointment.
“This narrative is not new to them, and to hear it from Ann Hsu — who they have respected and believed in and felt represented by — really hurt them,” Dodson said. “All of a sudden, you know, they lost that trust in her.”
Dodson noted that though the families condemned Hsu’s actions, they did not call for her to resign.
“Despite the hurt and the harm, they seemed like they wanted to give her a chance,” Dodson said. “They are not immediately trusting that she can do this but want to see some growth and change from her.”
On social media, supporters of Hsu cited free speech, calling out “cancel culture” and labeling Hsu a victim of Asian American hate.
More than 300 people have signed an open letter of support for Hsu, saying that they understand she made a mistake, but that she is only human and “did not do so out of any 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 tired of the politics,” SF Parent Action’s Dodson said. “They want our district to be able to just focus on our students. We have so much work to do to do better by those students.”