Tedesco defends letter mentioning races of ex-girlfriends

Posted June 29, 2010 12:33 p.m. EDT
Updated June 29, 2010 11:36 p.m. EDT

— Wake County Board of Education member John Tedesco said Tuesday that an uproar over comments he made about dating black and Latino women is misdirected.

Tedesco was one of the main proponents of scrapping the school district's long-standing policy of assigning students to balance the socio-economic diversity in schools across the county. He also is crafting the plan that would in the future send students to schools closer to their homes, which supporters of the diversity policy predict will re-segregate schools.

In a letter to the Rev. Nancy Petty, pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, Tedesco tried to defend himself from statements that he was a racist by noting that he has a godson who is black and that he has "a few ex girlfriends who were African American and Latino women."

Tedesco said in the letter that he grew up in low-income housing and has dedicated his life to helping at-risk youth, and he complained that the minority community in Wake County is more concerned about the student assignment plan than addressing the high suspension rates and low graduation rates of black male students.

Some blacks in the community expressed outrage over Tedesco using his dating history to defend his actions, but he responded Tuesday by saying the community should be talking about "the real issues" instead of his past.

"Stop digging for the most ridiculous things,” Tedesco said.

Petty said Tedesco's letter was talked about last week during a meeting among school diversity policy supporters.  She said the tone of that meeting was civil, however.

"I have not heard anyone call Mr. Tedesco a racist. No one I am affiliated with,” Petty said.

She also said that who Tedesco has dated is irrelevant to the tasks at hand.

"His personal life, his sex life has nothing to do with the issues that need to be talked about,” she said.

Petty also said she suspects that Tedesco leaked the letter in question to the media.

Tedesco denied that claim.