A superintendent of a high school in California was fired on Sunday, two and a half months after she made controversial comments linking Asian students’ academic performance to the wealth of their immigrant families.
The San Dieguito Union High School Board unanimously voted to fire Superintendent Cheryl James-Ward, who made the divisive remarks during a board training session on diversity, equity and inclusion back in April.
Michael Allman, a board trustee, was citing data that showed Asian students are getting fewer D and F grades than other ethnic or racial groups in the district when he asked James-Ward, “Do we know why Asian students do so well in school?”
James-Ward, the district’s first Black superintendent, responded that it is because the students are from rich families originating from China.
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“We have an influx of Asians from China, and the people who are able to make that journey are wealthy,” James-Ward was quoted as saying. “You cannot come to America and buy a house for $2 million unless you have money.”
A board member argued that cultural issues rather than wealth may be a more important reason behind Asian American success. However, James-Ward doubled down on her argument.
“We look where our kids live,” she said. “In my community, Carmel Valley, I have, not so much today, but up until a couple years ago, we had a large influx of Chinese families moving in sight unseen into our homes, into the community, and that requires money.”
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The Californians for Equal Rights Foundation, which has Chinese American leaders, said in a statement that her comments were “deeply offensive, grossly inaccurate and intentionally divisive, which ill-fits her leadership role in a major school district.”
A group of Asian parents told board members during a meeting in April that they were “hurt” by James-Ward’s comments. Many of them called for her resignation, while others demanded that she should be fired.
Following the backlash, James-Ward issued at least two apologies, one of which was made before the public comment portion of the April board meeting.
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“I understand why my comments caused so much pain,” she said before the meeting.
James-Ward was fired without cause, effective August 15, which means she is entitled to a year’s salary — or $288,000 — as a buyout.
In response to the decision, James-Ward said the firing was done in retaliation for the gender discrimination complaint she filed earlier this year against one of the school board members. Her lawyer reiterated the official’s previous plan to sue the school district.
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Featured Image via CBS 8 San Diego