The texts were sent last October during a public debate on whether the city’s three prestigious public schools will continue to use an entrance exam to select students or decide eligibility based on students’ grades and zip codes. Dozens of parents, mostly white and Asian, spoke against the proposal, saying it would undermine those schools’ reputation of academic excellence.
“Best school committee meeting ever. I’m trying not to cry,” school committee Chair Alexandra Oliver-Davila said in a text to fellow committee member Lorna Rivera, according to the texts obtained by the Boston Globe via a public records request.
“Wait until the white racists start yelling at us,” Rivera replied. “Whatever. They’re delusional,” texted Oliver-Davila in response. “I hate WR,” she wrote, a reference to West Roxbury, one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Boston.
“Sick of Westie whites,” Rivera texted back. “Me too. I really feel like saying that,” Oliver-Davila wrote in agreement.
On June 8, a day after the Globe reported on the text messages, the city released resignation letters from Oliver-Davila and Rivera, in which they appeared to shift the focus onto alleged racism against them.
“I regret my personal texts, it was inappropriate,” Oliver-Davila wrote. “But I am not ashamed of the feelings from history that made me write those words.”
Oliver-Davila said she grew up in a city where she suffered from racist attitudes and violence, and that she felt transported back to her youth because what the parents were saying at the meeting was allegedly racist in nature.
“It was painful. And in the heat of the moment it caused me to vent by sending inappropriate personal text messages to one of my colleagues,” she wrote. “I regrettably allowed myself to do what others have done to me. I failed my own standards.”
Meanwhile, Rivera didn’t mention the text messages she sent, but alleged in her statement that she’s been receiving “racist threatening emails and social media personal attacks” from members of the school district community who are against the admission policy change.
“I am being targeted as a Latina gender studies professor who teaches about racism, patriarchy, and oppression,” she wrote. “Because of the harassment and overwhelming stress from School Committee-related work, my mental and physical health has deteriorated, so I need to resign and recuperate.”
Oliver-Davila is the second Boston School Committee chair to resign in less than a year. During the same public meeting where she and Rivera exchanged controversial texts, then-committee Chair Michael Loconto was caught on a hot mic mocking the names of several Asian parents. Loconto promptly resigned, allowing Oliver-Davila to take the position.