The Valley Stream 13 Board of Education has asked a fellow trustee to step down following derogatory statements he allegedly posted about the Latino community on social media, according to a resolution approved by the board.
The board also has appointed a special counsel to investigate whether trustee Vincent Pandit's alleged actions constitute official misconduct, which would warrant his removal from office.
The resolution, approved last week, stated that statements made by Pandit were deemed “improper and representative of poor judgment.” It stated that Pandit "made derogatory statements" on Oct. 11.
Pandit, a trustee since 2015 who won reelection last year, did not return requests for comment. The vote at the Oct. 22 board meeting was 6-0, and Pandit was not present.
A statement issued Friday by the board said the board was “aware of the controversy involving the public statement on Facebook of Mr. Vinny Pandit, a current board member.” The statement said Pandit was acting as a private citizen and is solely responsible for his comments.
“The Board of Education has a long-standing set of expectations for the conduct of its officers, District staff and students. These expectations are based on the principles of integrity, honesty, and citizenship,” read the statement.
The resolution stated that members of the board are “expected to be above reproach.”
According to a screen shot of the statements, Pandit commented on a thread about a Hispanic Heritage event with Nassau County Supervisor Laura Curran, saying the topic should be how Nassau County will eradicate “Hispanic/Latino gangsters, Rapists, Kidnappers and Drug Lords, from our streets so it will be a safe place to live. This is due to crimes committed everyday by the above group of origin as we all see in the news & newspapers."
Pandit has served as vice president on the prior board and on the board’s business committee, according to a 2018 interview with Newsday. He has lived in the district for more than 17 years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in India in 1979.
Parents in the elementary school district, which enrolls about 2,000 students, have called for Pandit to step down, and there's a petition on change.org with more than 230 signatures. According to data from the State Education Department, the district's student population is more than 27 percent Hispanic or Latino.
"We cannot tolerate having someone on the board making important decisions for our children who thinks that way," parent Maribel Canestro said. "It can't be tolerated. We are willing to do whatever we can and whatever it is in our means to make him resign."