Manhattan school board calls on Brooklyn board member to resign over slur

Members of Community Education Council 3, which covers Harlem and the Upper West Side.
Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

Brooklyn Community Education Council member Dr. Jackie Cody is facing more pressure to resign after she referred to Asians as “yellow folks” in a chain e-mail last year. 

Manhattan’s Community Education Council 3, which represents lower Harlem and the Upper West Side, called on Cody to step down from Southern Brooklyn’s CEC 22 at their monthly meeting on Jan. 22. The advisory board also proposed changes to state education law that would empower CEC’s to remove fellow members, in part because of the chancellor’s inaction on removing Cody from her post.

According to current state law, the chancellor is the only official that could remove a member from a CEC. But the chancellor can only do so if the member violates a law, by-laws, standards, rules or regulations or directives and agreements. 

“Dr.Cody’s actions did not violate any laws and a review of the CEC  by-laws indicate that her actions did not violate those either,” said a DOE spokesperson. 

President of CEC 3 Kim Watkins called Cody’s language “unacceptable in any way, shape or form.”

“Our council is willing to take a stand and make a strong recommendation for the action that should have been taken from the very beginning,” Watkins added. 

Each resolution passed is sent to the CEC district City Council members, state legislators, city and state education departments along with the borough president. 

Some meeting goers implored the board to pass a resolution denouncing the language arguing that if any similar comments had been lodged at other groups of color quicker action would have been taken. 

“It should be a no brainer, and yet it has taken us over four months to get here,” said Yiatin Chu of CEC 1, which covers Manhattan’s Lower East Side. 

Cody used the term in a message sent out in September on a CEC list serve when advocating for the removal of the city’s Specialized High School Admission Exam, along with gifted and talented programs.

“To be blunt,” she wrote, “certain whites and certain yellow folks on this list-serve continue to focus on a very narrow view… what they’re advocating for is damaging to white and yellow children as well.”

Since then, Asian parents and elected officials like City Council Member Chaim Deutsch have repeatedly called for her resignation at CEC and Panel of Educational Policy meetings.

In November, the Brooklyn board member apologized for using the offensive language stating in mid-November public meeting last year that she didn’t know the word yellow was offensive. On Jan. 7, CEC 22 voted to suspend Cody from the board for two months.

CEC 3 also called on the city’s Family and Community Empowerment Team to force all CECs and citywide councils to create a code of conduct for its members in the resolution. 

“CEC 22 has no interest in disrupting, disputing, or debating the business of another council,” said CEC 22 President Jessica Byrne in response to the resolution. “We are focused on the needs of our district, and will continue to work for and advocate for our schools and our families.”