Coatesville Area School District Superintendent Richard Como and Athletic Director Jim Donato
by Michael Rubinkam
Two officials at a large southeastern Pennsylvania school district exchanged “shockingly racist” text messages on district phones, a prosecutor said Monday.
Prosecutors learned of the messages during an investigation into the Coatesville Area School District, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan told The Associated Press.
“The text messages that we reviewed were of a shockingly racist nature,” he said. “They looked like something from 1813, not 2013.”
Ron Suber holds a sign as students get off a school bus across from the Benner Building in Coateville, Pa., home to the offices of the Coatesville Area School District on Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Daily Local News, Vinny Tennis)
The Daily Local News of West Chester reported that Superintendent Richard Como and the high school’s athletic director, Jim Donato, used district-owned cellphones to exchange a series of racist texts in June. Both resigned abruptly during the first week of school.
A message left for Como wasn’t immediately returned. A phone listing for Donato wasn’t immediately available.
Hogan said that once he learned of the racist texts, he requested that the district turn over copies of the messages and the phones used to send them, and the district complied. He declined further comment pending the outcome of the investigation.
The office of interim superintendent Angelo Romaniello Jr. referred comment to the school district’s attorney, who did not immediately respond to an email and phone call from the AP.
A large minority of students in Coatesville, a steel town 35 miles west of Philadelphia, are Black.
News of the racist texts emerged as the Coatesville chapter of the NAACP celebrated its 75th anniversary over the weekend. The president of the chapter, Tonya Thames Taylor, is a school board member.
The school board’s statement says it is working with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to provide mandatory sensitivity training to board members, administrators, staff and faculty. It’s also asking the commission to review the school district’s diversity policy and code of conduct.
Some parents are demanding the firings of Como and Donato.
The board is scheduled to vote Tuesday night on accepting the Aug. 29 resignations.
But some parents of children in the district tell The Philadelphia Inquirer (http://bit.ly/18lQbRt ) they want the men fired outright.
Ann Wertz, who has two children in the district, called the messages “inexcusable.”
Many of the alleged text messages between Como and Donato, first reported by Chester County’s Daily Local News, are downright ugly. They manage to disparage not just African-Americans, but Arabs, Jews and women, too.
Here are a few exchanges between the two school officials, according to The Daily Local News:
In an often unintelligible exchange of messages, the pair repeatedly used well-known and offensive racial slurs while discussing students, faculty, and members of the athletics department.
“All should just have whatever first names they want…then last name is N—-R!,” Donato wrote to Como. “Leroy N—-r, Preacher N—-r, Night train n—-r, clarence n—-r, Latoya n—-r, Thelma n—-r and so on.” “Great idea!” Como responded. “Joe n—-r bill n—-r snake n—-r got a nice ring to it.”
The conversation did not end there, as Como and Donato continued to use the slur as they appeared to discuss students in the school district.
“Could have whole homerooms of n—-r!” Como wrote.
“Hahahahaha!” Donato responded. “Will N—-r report to the office, pardon the interruption but will n—-r report to nurses office. N—-r to lunch now!”
On June 7, the pair exchanged another round of text messages discussing the then pending layoffs of district teachers and the recent firings of other black employees.
“Man some week for sure but will be topped Tuesday night by Delco vs. Ritter. Campbell fight over Dunn financial claims and sneak attack in wings,” Como wrote.
“Jesus christ! Can’t get much better (worse),” Donato replied. “Blood in water…”
“Right this could be classic conclusion to board meetings by end of month 23 (teachers) get clipped Tuesday a.m. before committee meeting and prob 6 to 9 more in July if Ritter budget numbers right,” Como said.
“How many n—-rs out of 23?” Donato asked. “Not enough!”
“Don’t know but think it’s only 4-5. At most until last minute rush of firing by Goo of Phoenix and Kamara,” Como answered.
“Good hangings there,” Donato wrote. The conversation continued with more obscene language.
The vile transcript only covers text messages sent between June 4 and 17. A woman is called an offensive term starting with a “c,” and there’s a reference to a “camel jockey” and “cotton pickers.”
“They were not only racist, they were sexist,” Hogan said. “My detectives are looking at these things, and they are appalled.”
Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.philly.com