Coatesville school board denies accusations of bias

The Coatesville Area school board has denied accusations of district-wide discrimination made by parents, residents, and advocacy agencies at a state NAACP hearing Tuesday night.

At the first of at least three NAACP hearings, people claimed that the district had mistreated disabled children and low-income and minority families.

“We are going to look into every potential claim of unfair treatment of any employee or student,” the school board said in a statement sent by acting Superintendent Angelo Romaniello Jr.

“I can assure you that this administration is not aware of any pattern of discrimination, and we will not tolerate any discrimination of any student, parent or employee.”

The hearings are the state NAACP’s response to the resignations of Superintendent Richard Como and athletic director James Donato after a district staffer discovered their racist and sexist text-message exchanges. The organization said it would investigate the claims made at the hearings and could take legal action. It also might refer cases to the Justice Department or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

“The Coatesville Area School District welcomes the assistance of the NAACP and the PA Human Relations Commission in our effort to heal this community in the wake of these hateful text messages,” the board’s statement said. “We cannot say it often enough; the language used and the attitudes expressed were disgusting and do not reflect who we are and what we stand for. We are going to continue working with these groups as well as community leaders to bring our school community together again.”

According to the testimony Tuesday, people believe discrimination in the district goes beyond text messages.

Representatives from Arc of Chester County, a disability services group, said the district punishes some disabled children for behaviors beyond their control and is condescending toward minority and low-income families.

An attorney at the Education Law Center said the district suspends and expels minority students at a higher rate than districts across the state and country or in Philadelphia.

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