The president of the Pacific Grove High School Associated Student Body, Anthony Biondi, resigned today after nearly two weeks of pressure from the community to have him removed. Anger was mounting after photos of him posting with a Confederate flag and mock weapons in 2020 and a video of him saying the N-word in 2019 were circulated after his election in May.
On Aug. 7, a change.org petition was started by another student calling for him to be recalled. As of today there are over 600 signatures on the petition.
The announcement of Biondi's resignation came from PGHS Principal Lito Garcia in an email to families Thursday morning, Aug. 19. It was sent just hours before tonight's Pacific Grove Unified School District board meeting, where it was expected that numerous parents, students and community members would demand his removal.
After affirming support of diversity and inclusion of all students, Garcia denounced "racism, bullying and supremacy in any form." At the bottom of the email was a four-paragraph resignation letter from Biondi, identified only as "the student" by Garcia, and unsigned.
In the letter, Biondi states the 2019 video taken in a classroom and originally posted by another student on Snapchat, shows him "saying an inappropriate and hurtful word…
"I want to start by sincerely apologizing for using this term and telling everyone how much I regret saying that word in the fall of 2019, and of the Snapchat post. I know how insensitive my actions were and I know that saying 'sorry' is not enough.
"I am deeply embarrassed by my stupid and thoughtless action but hope that I have matured a bit in the past two years. In truth, because I have great respect for the Black community and truly believe that we are all equal, I am disgusted with myself when I remember that I had made the comment and the post. I certainly was younger and made a serious mistake that I now regret. But, I know that I cannot erase my past and the only way I can correct the course I was on is by my actions. In running for and being elected ASB President I had hoped to make PG High a safe environment in which everyone is comfortable being themselves."
After acknowledging how his actions hurt the community and his family, he writes he is stepping down because they had become a distraction.
"While I will not be serving as ASB president this year, it is my intent to model the values of our school and community and my parents by being who I am and supporting other students who may be struggling the way I was two years ago," he states.
Although the video was two years ago, the photos of him holding a Confederate flag and a mock weapon, along with another photo of him with a fake weapon, were posted one year ago. They were quickly taken down but had already been seen by numerous PGHS students on social media and images captured that outlasted those temporary posts.
The photos were reported to Garcia at the time and, according to Biondi's parents, there were consequences administered by the school and by themselves.
After Biondi was elected as ASB president in May to serve in the 2021-22 school year, the photos and video resurfaced and concerned families waited to see if the administration would discipline Biondi, possibly by removing him from office. When it wasn't clear how or if Biondi had been disciplined, junior Alexandra Ulwelling launched the petition two days after school began.
In the past several days the local organization Community Before Cops has been encouraging its members and the community on social media to show up or call into the board meeting to push the district to remove Biondi, among other demands.
Ulwelling says she will still be at the board meeting tonight and will ask the board to strengthen the district's policy on equity and inclusion, as well as mandate continuing education for all district staff and board members on racial justice. She'll also be asking for the tightening up of disciplinary procedures for issues around discrimination and hate speech.