District 13 trustee to step down after controversial comments

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School District 13 Board of Education Trustee Vinny Pandit has tendered his resignation after a series of controversial comments he made on Facebook regarding the Long Island Hispanic community.

Pandit had reportedly issued a letter of resignation on Nov. 6 unanimously accepted by the board, according to a message posted on the district’s website. It takes effect Dec. 6.

His resignation followed an official request on Oct. 22 from his fellow board members for Pandit to step down.

The controversy stemmed from Pandit’s social-media comments in response to a flier posted online by the Nassau County Office of Hispanic Affairs promoting an Oct. 16 chat between millennial Latinos and County Executive Laura Curran in which he asserted that the topic of conversation should be how the county would “eradicate Hispanic/Latino gangsters, rapists, kidnappers and drug lords from our streets so it will be a safe place to live.”

After his original post, Pandit continued his commentary, disparaging respondents online who criticized his remarks as offensive.

Describing them using words such as “idiot,” “ignorant” and “illegal,” Pandit appeared to question why anyone would disagree with his statement, which was aimed, he said, at highlighting the dangers posed by Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, an El Salvadoran gang that in recent years has carried out a series of murders on Long Island. He wondered, he said, why his comments were portrayed in such a negative light.

The post prompted outrage from the Latino community within the district, where there are 561 students of Hispanic background enrolled — the most of any demographic — according to State Education Department statistics.

As a result, more than two-dozen mostly Hispanic parents had packed the James A. Dever auditorium on Oct. 15 to call for Pandit’s resignation while board members, speaking as individuals, expressed outrage at their fellow trustee’s comments.

Pandit, who has served on the board since 2015, has so far not responded to requests for comment, but did issue an apology on Oct. 15 in which he expressed remorse at how his comments had been portrayed.

“I am truly sorry if I hurt any particular group,” he said. “As you know, I stand strongly for the safety of our children in schools, and that drew me into this conversation.”

He said he saw the initial post as an opportunity to begin a dialogue about school safety, and claimed that his comments had been misrepresented.

“My intentions were clear,” he said. “I stand strongly for the safety of our children, and one thing led to another, as it often happens with social media, and things got out of hand.”