Education

‘Inappropriate. Unacceptable’: Boston School Committee chairman Michael Loconto resigns after appearing to mock names during meeting

"While he conveyed to me his personal embarrassment and his desire to seek forgiveness, his comments were hurtful and wrong," Mayor Marty Walsh said.

Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto resigned Thursday. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Boston School Committee Chairman Michael Loconto resigned Thursday after he appeared to mock the names of people who signed up to speak during a meeting the night before.

Loconto allegedly made the comments as members of the public were identified to speak before the committee, according to a video of the meeting obtained by WCVB. An official video recording of the meeting was not immediately available Thursday.

The list of names is announced by committee’s executive secretary in the video, then Loconto appears to purposely mispronounce them: “That was like Shania, Shanaya, Shanay-nay, and Boo Boo, and David, right?”

The chairman, who apologized during the meeting, told viewers he was speaking to someone in the room with him about a children’s book when his remarks were picked up on a hot microphone, although the explantation was later brought into question by a parent.

“Chairman Loconto notified me earlier this morning that he is stepping down from the Boston School Committee, and I have accepted his resignation,” Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement. “While he conveyed to me his personal embarrassment and his desire to seek forgiveness, his comments were hurtful and wrong.

“None of us wishes to be defined by a single moment in our lives and no one knows that better than me,” Walsh continued. “Michael is someone who has done important and difficult work for the people of Boston, and especially our children, but we cannot accept the disparagement of members of our community.”

Loconto, a West Roxbury lawyer who was appointed to the committee by Walsh in 2014, posted a written apology on Twitter Thursday.

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“I want to apologize for the comments I made last night,” Loconto wrote. “It was not ever my intention to mock anyone. I know what was in my head and in my heart but I make no excuses. I know how my words were heard and how they hurt. I have always tried to lead my life, publicly and privately, by treating people with dignity and respect. To those who I offended, I offer again my sincerest apology and ask for your forgiveness.”

The apology came amid several calls earlier in the morning for his resignation, particularly from city councilors, several of whom said they were appalled and infuriated by Loconto’s statements.

“Inappropriate. Unacceptable,” Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George, who helms the council’s Committee on Education, posted around 11:35 p.m. Wednesday. “WTF was that?!”

“Mr. Loconto’s behavior last night was unacceptable. I’m deeply appalled, personally offended, by his words,” Essaibi-George, a former Boston Public Schools teacher whose father immigrated to the United States from Tunisia, wrote Thursday. “I watched & heard it live. It is unconscionable that he would mock & disparage our families. Our school communities & our City deserve more. It’s time for his resignation.”

She added: “There are times and events that are embarrassing, unprofessional, and also excusable (esp during this time), and then there are those things that require resignation. This requires resignation.”

Councilor and mayoral hopeful Michelle Wu cited her own experiences in condemning the remarks.

“As someone who has dealt with comments like this my entire life, this is not only deeply offensive, but blatantly racist & harmful to our efforts to create policy in partnership with community members impacted by these important decisions,” Wu said in a tweet.

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Wednesday’s School Committee meeting focused largely on a controversial proposal to drop admissions tests for students seeking to attend Boston’s exam schools for one year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The committee opted to unanimously back the plan, which will instead admit students based on MCAS scores, grades, and ZIP codes.

“Last night’s BSC gave me hope because of the inspiring testimony from residents centering justice & equity,” Councilor Ricardo Arroyo wrote. “Hearing Loconto mock names during that testimony was infuriating.

“Names are sacred. They all deserve respect,” he added. “Boston deserves better, we deserve better.”

Councilor Andrea Campbell, also seeking Walsh’s seat in next year’s election, said, “Racist comments are never acceptable, most of all by our public servants.”

“This is not the first time people of color have felt disrespected by Mr. Loconto,” Campbell said in a statement. “I don’t accept this behavior from our School Committee Chair and neither should Mayor Walsh.”

Loconto, whose term was slated to expire in 2022, was elected chairman of the committee in 2018, 2019, and earlier this year.

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