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School officials resign after allegedly sending racist, sexist texts

By Julia Lull and Julia Talanova, CNN
updated 3:57 PM EDT, Wed September 25, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A school superintendent and athletic director resign after a controversy over text messages
  • The Coatesville Area School District's board accept the resignations
  • Board attorney: The messages allegedly included racist and sexist comments
  • CNN's attempts to reach the officials for comment go unanswered

(CNN) -- A Pennsylvania school board voted to accept the resignations of two school officials who have been accused of sending each other a series of racist and sexist text messages on district phones, the board's attorney said.

In a 6-1 vote Tuesday night, members of the Coatesville Area School District board accepted the resignation of Superintendent Richard Como and high school Athletic Director Jim Donato, said the attorney, James Ellison.

Copies of their texting conversations were provided to Tonya Thames Taylor, a board member, on August 18, according to a statement released by the school district. Taylor then contacted other members of the board and an internal investigation was launched.

Both men were instructed by the district not to report to work, and they submitted their resignations on August 29. The resignations made no reference to the alleged text messages. The board does not believe any other school district employees were involved in the incident, according to the board statement.

"The racist and sexist language expressed by the two men was sickening and obviously unacceptable," board President J. Neil Campbell said in a written statement. "The board followed state and federal laws and moved as expeditiously as possible while simultaneously cooperating with the district attorney."

Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said the messages came to light as part of an existing unrelated investigation. In addition to the racist and sexist elements, he said, the messages had references to possible money-skimming.

Hogan's office is continuing their investigation and would not say if Como and Donato will face any charges.

CNN's attempts to reach Como and Donato for comment went unanswered.

The school board is working with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to provide sensitivity training to faculty and staff members in the district, and guidance counselors and mental health specialists are on hand to assist students and staff, the district's acting superintendent, Angelo Romaniello, said in an open letter to the community Monday.

"Although this has temporarily deflated our spirits it will never defeat us. In Coatesville, we know that our diversity is our greatest strength and we are proud that our community is a microcosm of the real world," Romaniello wrote.

"We are still Coatesville, and we continue to pursue our noble goal: to provide the best education for all of our students that our money can buy," Romaniello said.

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