Canyon High School

Canyon High School MIKALA COMPTON | Herald-Zeintung

Public outrage over the term “china virus” in a letter by Canyon Athletic Booster Club’s president led to an apology issued online Tuesday night. 

Some parents say an apology isn’t enough; others say it’s a non-issue.

The Aug. 17 letter, written by booster club president and Comal ISD school board president David Drastata, was sent to the club’s membership and aimed to inform members of the first meeting of the school year. It went on to describe upcoming volunteer opportunities, including the establishment of a storefront for merchandise in Canyon High School’s cafeteria.

David Drastata

“It may not be fully functioning when school starts because of some space issues due to the china virus, but at some point, it will be an awesome walk-in and shop location.”

The phrase “China virus” to describe COVID-19 has been repeatedly admonished by groups such as the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, which claims it fosters anti-Asian bigotry and hate crimes.

A screenshot of the letter quickly spread among parents, who flooded local media outlets with complaints.

“Use of such a term shows a concerning lack of sensitivity and empathy in attempting to unfairly cast blame on Chinese and other Asian/Asian American groups,” CISD parent Winston Barnett said. “This is unacceptable for someone in Mr. Drastata’s position, setting a poor example for those in the community and for the children which the district is responsible for educating. Rhetoric like this is not constructive in any way and, whether intentioned or not, can lead to discrimination and exclusion within the district. I expect district and community leaders to embrace diversity and inclusion and to speak out directly against those that do otherwise.”

Krystal Thompson, wife of a teacher in the district and mother of two elementary aged children who attend school there, agreed.

“Frankly I am shocked and disappointed at the ignorance and inherent racism/xenophobia of the statement,” Thompson said. “As a school district that is supposed to be inclusive and welcoming across five counties I feel that this could offend and alienate Asian American students and families not to mention the fact that it doesn’t set a good example of how we in Comal ISD conduct ourselves.”

Parent Morena Hockley, whose sons are athletes at Canyon High School, said the wording in the letter makes her anxious for her children’s safety.

“My husband is Filipino-American and our kids are biracial,” she said. “We have seen how Asian Americans around the country have been the subject of hate crimes as a result of people incorrectly blaming them for being the cause of this virus. I worry that students in our district will be subjected to this same kind of hate. Words matter. Mr. Drastata is a leader in our community, and his language sets the tone and example for those he is leading. His disrespectful language sets a horrible example.”

Christopher Parma, a recently retired teacher who previously taught at two CISD schools and whose Asian American daughter is a graduate of Canyon High School, said the CAPAC has reported more than 2,500 hate crimes and incidents in recent months. He said use of the phrase “china virus” has been used as a weapon against Asian Americans.

“David Drastata chose to use a term that has been used to incite racial animosity by others, including President Trump,” Parma said. “The virus is called SARS-CoV-2 or the coronavirus, and that is well-known.  Using ‘china virus’ was a conscious choice, and that term has been used by President Trump to target a nation and people, not to help fight the pandemic. 

“People have seized on President Trump’s rhetoric to harass or even physically attack Asian Americans,” he continued. “And, the use of that term by a school official undermines efforts to create a learning environment welcoming to people of all ethnicities.”

The apology

Tuesday night, Drastata issued a public apology on the athletic booster’s website.

“In my letter to the Canyon ABC on August 17, I referred to COVID-19 in a manner that has caused offence; for this I sincerely apologize,” his statement said. “My choice of words should not be a reflection on the Canyon Athletic Booster Club, Canyon High School or Comal ISD. This incident has given me pause to reflect on how important it is to be thoughtful in my words, actions and deeds. Again, please accept my sincerest apologies.”

Supporters step up

Many members of the community stepped forward to speak on behalf of Drastata’s character, citing his years of volunteer service for the district in various capacities.

“My husband and I have both worked for Comal ISD for 14 years,” said Elizabeth Machalec. “Under David’s  leadership we have seen our district grow and flourish. He has done many wonderful things for the students and faculty. We also know David through activities that our children have been involved with. We have experienced David’s warm and generous heart first hand many times.”

Gena Thiele, who has worked with Drastata on various booster club projects, said he works tirelessly for the good of all students.

“He cares for every kid and wants every kid to have every opportunity that as a community we can provide them — if it is a safe remote home learning experience, to a safe in person at school experience,” Thiele said. “He is focused on the kids and the staff of Comal ISD.”

Asenett Ruiz recalled how Drastata helped when her family took in a football player on the verge of going into foster care a couple of years ago.

“I took him in, and without asking the Drastatas came and helped with clothes,  schools supplies, and even helped pay for his football game meals,” Ruiz said. “He is now my son, that my husband and I adopted this year. They are amazing people, and are huge support to the CISD and Canyon High School.”

The resounding cry from Drastata’s supporters: He’s a good man who misspoke, apologized and deserves grace — not attacks.

“It is truly sad when a few people that may or may not have kids that attend Comal ISD schools try to tear someone down and completely ‘cancel’ everything good that they have done,” Vivian Edens, who lives in the district. “In fact, it is a travesty. Those who have an agenda all on their own do not have our students’ interests in mind, nor do they care that they are slandering a man who has done so much for our kids and community as a whole.”

Some community members, such as Todd Thetford, believe Drastata should never have issued an apology.

“If elected leaders of our great country, the USA, continue to use the exact phrase describing the virus, I see absolutely no issue with it,” Thetford said. “While again, I do not think it was necessary, his apology was more than sincere if it did hurt anyone’s feelings.”

Wanting more

For parents like Thompson, however, an apology is not enough.

“I personally would prefer that someone who makes a statement like that so flippantly and in a public letter not be in charge of anything,” Thompson said. “I feel that he should at the very least be suspended or asked to step down as president of the booster club.”

Hockley also was not satisfied with the apology and suggested diversity training for the district’s leadership, an idea Thompson also supported.

“His response was disappointing because he never acknowledged that the term was offensive,” Hockley said. “He said he was sorry that others were offended. 

“The district is becoming more diverse, but our administration does not reflect that,” she continued. “Diversity training is long overdue in CISD. For starters, maybe the board needs to clearly identify what hate speech is and how to respond to it.”

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(20) comments

jacob emailman

I am deeply concerned for the future of our city, state and country by these news articles. It is greatly concerning that someone would get so distressed over such an unimportant, non-harmful detail. If it truly concerns you about the "mental health" of your child, teach them to understand words are just WORDS. The way this mother doesn't even acknowledge the apology letter sent out and would rather cause a larger problem than this really should be is the reason many are so depressed and scared for the future of our community!

Angela Van Beveren

David Drastata is a good man who gives selflessly to our community and volunteers countless hours to the benefit of kids in Comal ISD. He apologized for a poor choice of words that do not define his character. What else do you want? She wants him to step down. . . is SHE going to step up? She already said that she isn't even involved in the organization. David stepping down *would* hurt our kids, not help. Has this woman never said anything she regretted? Why does every little thing warrant such a dramatic response these days? Why does everything have to have an ulterior motive? Mistake. Apology. I'm quite certain lesson learned. Why is that not enough? It's easy to sit back and critique others who do the job you aren't willing to do. Have a little grace. This should be a lesson learned, not a complete attack of a family who has always contributed above and beyond.

Bob King

Let me preface this comment by saying I’m neither a Trump nor a Biden supporter. I will be voting for a third party candidate. I’m also a mixed race citizen of partial Asian descent.

Calling COVID the “China virus” was stupidly injecting politics into a Booster Club communication, but it’s by no means racist. It’s only offensive to people who have been trained by our media to be ever-alert for an opportunity to be offended at every turn.

“Afraid for her children”?? The lady needs to stop watching 24/7 cable news and get a life.

This is a ridiculous story and the cancel culture that has spawned this story is, along with Trump, equally guilty in tearing the country apart. Now the division is driven into the Canyon Booster Club, much to the glee of extremists on both sides.

cordie ray

Some 5000 or so Chinese perished from this virus. 1800000 plus Americans have. The only appropriate label for this malady is "Trump's Mumps" or the Trump virus. Read it and weep.

Michael Keel

5,000 Chinese perished? You actually believe that? Where did you get that figure?

Michael Keel

Well, the leftist venom and bile is flowing. Racism! Xenophobia! Diversity training at the slightest perception of infraction against the leftist race-baiting orthodoxy! The man used a term controversial to SOME, and the spring-loaded hack jobs are out for his head. Pitiful, and the world is not a better place for it. I support Mr. Drastatas!

Smith Chris

Oh calm down Michael.... No one deny Drastatas efforts for the school. Parents concern his (as the school leader) word can hurt Asian kids feeling in school, and other kids may follow, that is it.

Since when caring and considering for students feeling become a left or right issue? Why every discussion in nowadays end up to political argue...

Michael Keel

I stand by my comments. "Racism" and "Xenophobia" were used by persons in the article as was the suggestion of Diversity Training. The reactions are way over the top, but that's the typical fare nowadays with the leftist cancel culture and I'm sick of it. Suggesting the man to step-down over the term 'china virus' is ridiculous and in itself smacks of the politics you deplore. And in that vein, review John Lugo's comments below. Talk about politics!

Toni Carter

I have never met more dedicated volunteers than the Drastata's. It is unfortunate that some are attempting to judge this man by two words and not his record. The fact is COVID 19 has drastically changed how almost every person lives their life, and have for the last several months. Educators, sports personnel, board members, citizens and so on have all been extended to their max in getting school, let alone sports, back on track in the past months and weeks. This is a very difficult period of time and for all, these are very difficult and very emotional times. Some are financially stressed but many are emotionally stressed. I hope that everyone can pause and remember this is a human, with a family, this is not political. The Drastata's have volunteered countless hours for all kids and I have never felt any form of racism from either of the Drastata's. I have observed a man networking throughout the community to obtain donations, funding, support, etc. for a school and for sports programs. If not for some of the efforts, that I have observed, there would not have been programs or funding to make purchases that allowed some young people to be involved. This is all work and countless hours spent working behind the scenes. Again, try to pause and evaluate the whole.

Gerald Killen

I see that comments onty in concert with prevailing thought of the majority

is accepted

Jerryk

I

Kelly Butler

The virus came from China. ‘China’ is not a bad word last I heard.

If people are sensitive over the truth being spoken, perhaps they need to develop a thicker skin. PC has run amok.🤦🏼‍♀️

Gerald Killen

It has become a shame that people can not the truth without being put down

For doing so. They must cowtow to cover up or fear of hurtin sme feelings.

This world wide vius did come CHINA and was covered up by them,to the hurt of many and deaths. I for one, consider the letter to be appropiate nd correct.

Jerryk retired vet of 50 yrs and CanyonLake resident for for same time

Smith Chris

It is definitely your freedom to shout out the truth without considering other feelings. The Asian kids feeling in school are not that important, how can it stop a school leader’s freedom to tell the truth? I get it.

JV Garza

I am disappointed it took this incident for David Drastata (Booster club president AND Comal ISD school board president) to reflect on how important it is to be thoughtful not only in his actions, and deeds but in his words. Perhaps David should step down.

John Lugo

I’m not a trump supporter. I don’t support racism. I don’t support hate of any generalized group the way trump supporters have and continue to. This man will step down. He has decided for himself that he doesn’t want to lead everyone. You don’t attack a race, publicly, by accident. Do I need to provide examples of Asian and Asian-American hate crimes since the pandemic started? Is this man unaware of his own racism as a leader and educator? This will only get worse, and he will step down. This is now national news. By deciding to do nothing CISD has labeled themselves as a school system in need of a complete overhaul. School is not the place for hate, even if CISD likes it that way. Even in New Braunfels, TX your hate will be condemned. Just because your little town supports racism doesn’t mean you get to keep it. If you wanted to bring attention to your school, you’ve succeeded. We won’t rest until your school district has all new leaders, due to national embarrassment. Stop protecting racism.

Michael Latino Trump Supporter

Success should always be measured by performance and Mr. Drastatas performance, his efforts and tireless work all speaks volume. An apology was and is completely unnecessary! In my opinion, he and his family deserve an apology for now being labeled with this ridiculous complaint.

From what I read it does look as though people complaining have no issues with making this political and were quick to bash President Trump. People complaining seem to also be very opinionated and comments such as theirs are what leads to more division.

We have a Top-Notch school district with amazing leadership, great schools, great teachers, great students, and great facilities. We should all feel appreciative of leadership like Mr. Drastatas. For parents who are quick to complain and or always quick to express sensitivity/emotions--Toughen up!

John Lugo

Mr. Drastatas must have not realized that children of other ethnicities attended school in his district. I guess he needs to be reminded on a national level. I guess what Asians and Asian Americans need to do is “Toughen up!” next time their children are bullied and attacked. Do I need to provide examples of attacks on Asian and Asian Americans due to this type of rhetoric since the pandemic began? This is now national news because CISD has done nothing to remedy it.

Smith Chris

When our president call the illegals Latino immigrants rapist, crimImals , I believe you are not offended and OK with it. Words does not matter based on your opinion. But I am not sure whether Latino kid can be toughen up when heard this word.

Kelly Butler

Based on your comment, you’ll be voting for Biden, if you decide to vote (none of my business of course).

Have you been listening to what Mr. Biden ‘accidentally’ says about minorities? Gaffe’s I believe Biden’s handlers call them. If you haven’t heard Mr. Biden’s bigoted remarks, I’m sure you can find them on the internet. What is that proverb, “those who live in glass houses should not throw stones”? Yeah, that fits this convo.

Smith Chris

Sorry, I won’t vote for Biden or Trump. I am not the left and right, I only hope this country getting better and people may show more caring and sympathy. I just disagree when some people are not under others situations, but still teach others to be OK with it and be tough.

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