San Dieguito Union HS District Superintendent Placed on Leave After Comments About Asian Students

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The San Dieguito Union High School District superintendent has been removed after some parents expressed outrage over comments about the Asian-American student community, which were made during a diversity training session last week.

Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Ward was placed on administrative leave after the SDUHSD board voted 3-1 in a late-night closed-door session Wednesday.

Tina Douglas, the current Associate Superintendent of Business Services, was named interim superintendent on Friday.

Tina Douglas, the current Associate Superintendent of Business Services, was named interim superintendent on Friday. NBC 7's Rory Devine reports.

Ward became the center of controversy following comments made during a training session on diversity, equity and inclusion last Monday.

The board was discussing data on the achievement gap, which showed several Asian students in the district received fewer Ds and Fs than other racial groups.

The superintendent of the San Dieguito Union High School District was accused of making comments that were insensitive to Asian-American students.

When one board member asked, “Do we know why Asian students do so well in school?” Dr. Ward responded with comments that have since been criticized by members of the Asian-American community as stereotypes and not representative of the community as a whole.

“Here in San Dieguito, we have an influx of Asians from China and the people who are able to make that journey are wealthy," Ward said during the meeting. "You cannot buy a house for two million dollars unless you have money."

When a board member said she believed the success was attributable to the support this group receives from extended families living together, Ward agreed. 

More than 50 San Dieguito Union High School District parents showed up at Wednesday evening's board meeting to call for Ward's resignation. Ward attended the meeting but did not address parents.

Ward apologized twice “for the harm I caused the community.” She held a community meeting and sent e-mails to the community writing in part, “I spoke insensitively with a bias I didn’t know was there.” She outlined possible actions the district could take to heal the community.

Dr. Wenyuan Wu, the Executive Director of Californians for Equal Rights Foundation (CFER), said more than diversity training will be needed to address the concerns raised by her comments.

“These remarks are clearly racist stereotyping. As you know not every Asian family is Chinese, not every Asian family is privileged, and not every Hispanic family is underprivileged,” Wu said

The CFER is described as a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the causes of equal rights and merit.

“Instead of throwing a stereotype, they’re just Asian, they’re just rich, or … they all just want to learn, they’re just book nerds, I think that is over generalizing, that is oversimplifying a phenomenon that is consequential, and in turn that also dismisses or conceals opportunities to learn and grow as a community,” Wu said.

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