Comal ISD Board President Declines TV Interview About ‘China Virus’
Comal ISD Board of Trustees President David Drastata was the top story on TV news Friday.
Reporter Henry Ramos opened San Antonio KENS 5 TV’s 10 p.m. show with a report about a controversial email Drastata sent to Canyon High School’s (CHS) athletic booster-club parents calling COVID-19 “the China virus.”
Drastata declined to be interviewed on camera by Ramos and Comal ISD did not issue a statement, but Morena Hockley, the mother of two CHS soccer players who are of Asian descent, called him out in a Zoom interview for using racist language.
“It was just a gut punch,” she said.
Hockley said Drastata’s apology, posted to the Canyon Athletic Booster club website, wasn’t enough and suggested the school board make a strong statement about unity and diversity that condemns terms like “China virus.”
In another interview, Hockley also encouraged Supt. Andrew Kim, who also is of Asian descent, to stand up for his students.
Speaking live before the camera yesterday, Ramos said Drastata emailed him a copy of his apology, saying the incident has given him time to pause and reflect and, to be thoughtful in his actions, words and deeds.
How It Started
The controversy kicked off after Drastata, in his capacity as president of the athletic booster club, emailed parents on Aug. 17 to talk about an upcoming meeting. In that email, he warned that a storefront location in the school cafeteria might not ready “because of some space issues due to the china virus.”
One parent, who does not wish to be named for fear of repercussions by coaches, emailed Drastata challenging him on his use of language but never heard back. As tensions mounted on social media, MyCanyonLake.com reached out to Drastata and Comal ISD Executive of Director of Communications Steve Stanford for comment on Tuesday, Aug. 25, but they did not respond.
Several hours later, Drastata posted an apology to the athletic booster club’s website that didn’t satisfy some parents.
‘Go Back Where You Came From’
However, supporters defended Drastata on social media and in comments posted to MyCanyonLake.com’s website and Facebook page, and on other Facebook pages, saying they see nothing inappropriate in calling COVID-19 the ‘China virus’ and praising for his many years of service to the community.
One of them, Lance Jonas, an Ag Science teacher at Canyon High School, posted on Facebook that if Hockley didn’t like it she should “go back where you came from.”
Danville Middle School teacher Josh Lawyer-Jefferson, who coached Hockley’s son in soccer, defended Hockley.
“I’m a teacher and a coach in Comal ISD,” he responded. “I’d like to know what you meant by ‘if you do not like it then go back to where you came from?'”
One Comal ISD administrator who did get back with Hockley is Canyon High School Principal Dustin Davisson, who responded Friday to a letter she sent to the district:
“I do want you to know that the inclusion of all students is a top priority of Canyon High School. We do have clubs on campus that help with this; BSU-Black Student Union, JOLT-Latinex population, GSA-Gay Straight Alliance. While we do have many ethnicities in our existing clubs, I am working with our newly formed Diversity Council to start other clubs for specific populations. We know that the more students are involved and the more comfortable they feel in school, the more engaged a student is in the learning process and the more successful they will be. The number one priority at Canyon High School is the safety and security of ALL students. Our next priority is preparing ALL students for their future. ALL students is inclusive to every population at Canyon High School. I personally do not want to just be someone that talks about change, but is an active member for change.”
“I hope everyone will always keep in mind that the things we say, the interactions, our responses and reactions, (children) will know this, they’re forming opinions themselves about how they are someday going to respond to these same things.” —Comal ISD Board of Trustees President David Drastata
Drastata: Kids Are Forming Opinions
While acknowledging the sincerity of Davisson’s apology, Hockley said what sticks with her most is a comment Drastata made at the end of the last board of trustees meeting, captured on video by another parent.
Speaking about COVID-19, Drastata said how adults manage fear affects children.
“I hope everyone will always keep in mind that the things we say, the interactions, our responses and reactions, they’ll know this, they’re forming opinions themselves about how they are someday going to respond to these same things,” he said.
In her letter to trustees, Hockley agreed with Drastata on this single point.
“We have seen how Asian Americans around the country have been the subject of hate crimes as people incorrectly blame them for being the cause of this virus,” she said. “I worry that students in our district will be subjected to this same kind of hate as a result of the CISD board president’s language.
“Words matter. Mr. Drastata is a leader in our community, and his language sets the tone and example for those he is leading.”
Drastata also is a leader in the San Antonio business community.
A Walmart market manager, he serves on the board of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.
China invested $2.2 billion in the San Antonio-New Braunfels metro area between 2000-2016, according to a 2017 article in 247wallst.com.
Walmart, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, City of New Braunfels, and the New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce all declined to be interviewed for this story or to provide more-recent information about Chinese investment in the area.
However, one elected official has no qualms with calling out racist language.
On May 7, the San Antonio City Council passed a resolution denouncing terms like “Chinese virus” and “Kung Fu virus.”
“We’ve seen incidents that are clearly racist in nature all around this country and we’ve even seen some incidents here,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “This is really about standing in solidarity with all the members of our community.”
Afterward, the Asian American Alliance of San Antonio thanked the city council.
“We are very gratified that the San Antonio City Council has taken this courageous action to denounce antisemitism, anti-Asian bigotry, and all hateful speech, violent action and the spread of misinformation related to COVID-19,” it said in a statement. “We encourage all municipalities in and surrounding Bexar County to take similar actions to denounce racism and bigotry against Asian Americans and Jewish Americans.”