As two city officials called on a school board member to resign over comments she made about marginalized students, San Francisco Mayor London Breed came to her defense.
Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton and Supervisor Connie Chan said Ann Hsu should step down from her position on the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education over what she said as a candidate about Black and brown students struggling to learn due to “unstable family environments.”
In a discussion with Chinese-language media on Thursday, however, Breed urged San Franciscans not to oust Hsu, whom the mayor appointed with two others to the school board after voters recalled three of its members.
Hsu could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday.
On Tuesday, however, Hsu apologized for the remarks, which she made in a questionnaire for the San Francisco Parent Action Coalition that asked for her thoughts on reducing racial and educational inequities.
In the survey, she wrote about how a “lack of parental encouragement” made it difficult for some students to focus on school.
“… Especially in the Black and brown community, I see one of the biggest challenges as being the lack of family support for those students,” Hsu wrote. “Unstable family environments caused by housing and food insecurity along with lack of parental encouragement to focus on learning cause children to not be able to focus on or value learning.”
In her mea culpa earlier this week, Hsu said those statements reflected her own inherent and unconscious biases and inexperience.
While Mayor Breed acknowledged that the statement was hurtful to Latino and Black families, she said people should not jump to conclusions or ask Hsu to resign.
“It is not her intention to be divisive and to disrespect various communities,” Breed said, “but to figure out as a commissioner who represents all students, ‘How do we come together? How do we deal with the disparities?’”
Breed also applauded Hsu’s quick apology and willingness to turn her mistake into a learning experience.
But for others, Hsu’s public apology wasn’t enough.
“Her words perpetuate racist stereotypes and further divide communities of color in a time when we need to stand united against hate,” Chan wrote.
The teachers union—which opposed the recall of the three board members Hsu and her fellow two appointees replaced—echoed the sentiment.
The United Educators of San Francisco said Thursday that Hsu should resign and that the mayor should replace her with someone with a better understanding of racial inequities and who’s more capable of uniting a divided public school community.
“As a Black leader who works in SFUSD, I feel completely disrespected,” UESF Sergeant at Arms Teanna Tillery said in a prepared statement, “and as long as Ms. Hsu continues as a school board commissioner, I do not feel that we can protect our children, families and communities.”
But Breed said that although Hsu has much to learn, she’s also—as a Mandarin speaker and Asian American—an important asset to the board.
“I think that it’s important for her to be a better leader,” the mayor said, “and to be a better bridge builder.”
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that UESF opposed the recall of three board members last year and not the appointment of Ann Hsu.
Han Li contributed additional reporting for this story.
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