Ex-member of Queens high school board says he was let go over racially charged controversy

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Anthony Como, the former vice president of Christ the King (CTK) High School’s board of directors, claims that he was recently removed from his position in retaliation for voicing criticism of the school’s reaction to accusations of racial insensitivity last year.

In February 2018, the school did not allow Malcolm Xavier Combs, a student named after the radical black activist, to print the name “Malcolm X” on his senior sweater. The school claimed that there was a policy against printing nicknames on sweaters.

In April 2018, Combs filed a complaint with the City Commission of Human Rights about the school’s reaction to his senior sweater request. Como claims he was forced off of the board in December of 2018 and he filed an affidavit the following April in support of Combs’ complaint, in addition to a separate verified complaint that he was terminated in retaliation for criticizing the school.

On Monday, he made his affidavit public. 

“As a proud graduate of Christ the King Regional High School and a dedicated alumni member of the Board of Directors, I was appalled by the abuse of power of school officials and their blatant racism toward one of our students,” Como said. “I will fight tirelessly to ensure that Christ the King’s reputation for inclusivity, diversity and education excellence will not be jeopardized by those few corrupt individuals who profit from the institution.”

The Commission on Human Rights’ investigation is still ongoing after almost two years. Como said that waited until now to go public with his complaint because he thought that the investigation would go faster, but said that he hoped his testimony could speed things along. 

He also said that he had hoped the board Chairman Serphin Maltese might change his mind about terminating him. Como claimed that in the time since he left the board other members have stepped down in reaction to the way the school treated him and handled the controversy.

In the affidavit, Como gives an account of how he discovered that the school fabricated the policy that stopped students from printing nicknames on their sweaters. He also accused Vice Principal Veronica Arbitello of deliberately trying to embarrass Combs when she confronted him over his sweater request.

Como said Maltese opposed his calls for a full investigation of the incident. Instead, the school released a public statement that defended Arbitello’s response to the incident. In the following months, Como continued to press for an investigation, without any success.

Como, who formerly served in the City Council in 2008 and previously worked as counsel to former state Senator Maltese, claimed that he was removed from the board’s executive committee without any notice, or opportunity to be heard in early December.

Shortly after, Maltese emailed to inform him he would be removed from the board altogether after he missed more than three meetings in a row, citing a rule that puts a limit on absences “without a valid excuse.”

Como said that he had called in before each of these absences to let the board know ahead of time that he would not be attending because of responsibilities to his newborn daughter and son, who has Down syndrome.

He is calling for an opportunity to clear his name, to be reinstated in his previous position and to be paid in compensatory damages. 

Christ the King High School and Maltese declined to respond to a request for comment.

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