Aug 5, 2022 - Politics

School board member seeks no-confidence vote after Hsu's "hurtful" remarks

Two protest signs read "No room for racism on the school board" and "Racist attitudes can't possibly serve black and brown communities."
A rally outside a school board meeting that ruled to admonish Commissioner Ann Hsu. Photo: Megan Rose Dickey/Axios

San Francisco school board member Mark Sanchez tells Axios his fellow commissioner Ann Hsu's "very hurtful" remarks should result in a vote of no confidence.

Driving the news: The school board unanimously voted Tuesday night to strongly reprimand Hsu in light of recent comments about the performance of Black and Latino students.

  • Sanchez, however, calls the largely symbolic admonishment a "light touch response."
  • A vote of no confidence would send the message that the board believes Hsu is not "fit to be serving our schools," he added.

Catch up quick: Hsu in July claimed in a campaign questionnaire that it's difficult to educate Black and brown children because of their "unstable family environments" and "lack of parental encouragement to focus on or value learning."

  • District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan last month called Hsu's remarks "anti-Black and racist."
  • Hsu explained in an apology that she "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."
  • After resisting calls to submit her resignation, she said at Tuesday night's meeting that "canceling one another" is not the way to overcome "harmful biases and stereotypes."

Flashback: The school board has faced scrutiny since the pandemic’s beginning in 2020. Critics argued the board spent too much time focusing on an initiative to rename 44 schools with problematic namesakes and changing Lowell High School to a lottery admissions system while schools remained empty.

  • In 2021, dozens of public officials and community groups called for the resignation of then-school board member Allison Collins after critics unearthed controversial tweets about Asian American people that many said were racist. In March 2021, the school board passed a resolution of no confidence, ultimately stripping Collins of her role as vice president of the board.
  • San Francisco Mayor London Breed appointed Hsu and two other board members in March following the recall of Collins and two of her colleagues.

Between the lines: Much like the admonishment, a no confidence vote doesn't "have any teeth," Sanchez says.

  • Yes, but: "... it would be more than symbolic for certain communities who are demanding a more severe response," he says.

What's next: To put a resolution of no confidence on the school board's agenda, Sanchez needs the support of at least three other members.

  • He thinks Aug. 23 is the earliest the resolution could make it on the docket.
  • Sanchez, however, says getting the board's support "depends on the individual commissioners’ sense of how hurtful the statements were to them."
  • Hsu is up for election in the November midterm.
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