Coatesville Texting Scandal Brings Out Strong Emotions

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Not surprisingly, there isn't much sympathy for school administrators who exchange racist, lewd and sexist text messages about their students and staff. When it happens at one of the most diverse schools in its region, there is even less.

"Our strength is our diversity," said Matt Ortega, Coatesville Area High School's football coach.

And that diversity was openly mocked by the district's superintendent Richard Como and athletic director Jim Donato. Ortega, whose father is Mexican, was the subject of some of the text messages, in which he was referred to as "Taco" and "Burro." Other students and staff were called worse.

The Coatesville Area School Board allowed Como and Donato to resign, despite calls from parents and community members to dismiss the two. Now Philadelphia columnists are weighing in.

"The school board has ordered sensitivity training for staff and counseling for students, but that's not enough," reads an editorial in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. "While the board can't stamp out hateful thoughts and behavior, it has an obligation to protect children and employees from it at school. If board members are not up to that job, they should resign too."

The scandal's fallout is captured earlier in that same piece:The most sickening element of the racist, sexist text messages allegedly traded by Coatesville's schools superintendent and high school athletic director is that the officials were entrusted with children. These are the adults who were supposed to be educating and guiding the city's young people. Instead, they are accused of casually demeaning their students and colleagues in conversations they had on school district cellphones.

What does it do to children's self-esteem to know that people who are meant to be their role models harbor such malevolent attitudes toward them?

In another column, Rick O'Brien writes:

Richard Como and Jim Donato were front and center at many of Coatesville Area Senior High's sporting events, including during the football squad's drive last season to the PIAA Class AAAA championship game.

Behind the scenes, as it turned out, the superintendent and athletic director were anything but ardent supporters of all things Coatesville.Columnist Lou Rabito has more questions than answers:

Those kids are due an apology, not to mention an explanation.

How could Como and Donato, two seasoned "professionals" - the term needs quote marks in this case - and longtime educators as well as former coaches, stoop to such a level?

How could the same hands that, you would assume, applauded the kids' efforts in the athletic arena be capable of typing such drivel on a cellphone?

The good news is, students at the school aren't letting the scandal affect them.

"The thing I know about my players is that they're resilient," Ortega told The Inquirer. "They know how to handle adversity. I think that's going to help us get through this.

"These kids, if you look in our school, they don't have race issues in this school. [Tuesday], you would never have even known anything happened. It was a normal day at the high school. And that's what Coatesville is about."

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