Top school administrators exit as racist, sexist text messages surface
By The Associated Press
Published: Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, 8:42 p.m.
Two top administrators of a large Southeastern Pennsylvania school district traded a series of racist and sexist text messages on their district phones, the school board confirmed on Monday, seeking to contain the fallout by mandating sensitivity training for all district employees.
Coatesville Area School District Superintendent Richard Como and the high school's athletic director, Jim Donato, resigned on Aug. 29 after they learned of the board's intent to fire them over the “highly offensive” messages, according to a statement released by the district's lawyer.
“The racist and sexist language expressed by these two men was sickening and obviously unacceptable,” school board President Neil Campbell said in the statement, released after the texts were obtained and published by The Daily Local News of West Chester.
The scandal has rocked Coatesville, a steel town 35 miles west of Philadelphia, where nearly a third of the district's students are black. Como and Donato are white.
Campbell said the district's internal investigation has not uncovered any evidence that other district employees were involved in offensive exchanges.
Como didn't return a phone message seeking comment. Donato couldn't be located.
Prosecutors in Chester County learned of the texts during an unrelated investigation into the school district, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said.
Hogan said that once he learned of the texts, he requested that the district turn over copies of the messages and the phones used to send them, and the district complied.
“The text messages that we reviewed were of a shockingly racist nature,” he said. “They looked like something from 1813, not 2013.”
The Rev. Randall Harris, who leads a predominantly black congregation at Coatesville's Tabernacle Baptist Church, said he'd met with Como on numerous occasions, and found him to be sincere and “absolutely not” racist. Harris said he was appalled and angered over the texts.
“We always had a good working relationship, but that's been tainted,” Harris said.
The school board said it is working with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to provide mandatory sensitivity training to board members, administrators, staff and faculty.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.