Tulalips, NAACP demand resignation of Marysville school official

  • Fri Jun 11th, 2010 11:14pm
  • News

By Andy Rathbun and Eric Stevick Herald Writers

MARYSVILLE — The Tulalip Tribes and Snohomish County branch of the NAACP are calling for Michael Kundu to resign from the Marysville School Board over e-mails they view as racist.

If he doesn’t step down, the Tulalip Tribes may seek a recall of Kundu, tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon said.

Kundu was re-elected to the board in November. He is serving his third four-year term.

“After reading his e-mail, and seeing the racist nature of it all, we had no option but to call for his resignation,” Sheldon said.

Janice Greene, president of the local NAACP, agreed.

“We don’t believe that he should be putting together policy for children,” she said.

Kundu said he would not step down, even though he regretted hurting feelings in the district with his remarks.

“I have no intention of resigning,” Kundu said. “I think what I’ve done for kids in this district stands for itself.”

The school board and tribal board are scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Monday at the district headquarters. In a special meeting afterward, the board will consider making an apology.

Kundu has been in trouble before for remarks on race.

Weeks before he was first elected in 2003, his comments about the Makah Tribe led to an apology. As part of a heated exchange about whaling, Kundu, an environmentalist, called the tribe cryptic and dying, and said it’s not surprising they succumbed to colonists.

His latest comments were sent via e-mail on June 3 and 7. Kundu was discussing with his fellow board members the achievement gap — the way some members of minority groups trail their peers on state test scores.

He cited a controversial study by J. Philippe Rushton, a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario who ranked the intelligence of racial groups.

“There is a definitive factor played by racial genetics in intellectual achievement,” Kundu wrote.

Experts in the field of psychology said that while genes likely do affect intelligence, the link between the two is not clear.

“It hasn’t been answered definitively yet, one way or the other,” said Stephen Madigan, an associate professor of psychology who studies intelligence at the University of Southern California.

Kundu, who works in emergency management for a division of the Department of Homeland Security, said he now regrets citing Rushton’s research. Kundu said he now believes Rushton is racist.

Kundu also said he feared his comments may discourage minority students. Nearly 12,000 students belong to the district. About one third of those are minority students.

“I’m sorry that those kind of issues could impact kids thinking about what they’re capable of accomplishing,” he said.

Don Hatch, a member of the Tulalip Tribes Board, sat alongside Kundu on the school board for several years. The comments made in the e-mail will hurt Kundu’s credibility on the board, Hatch said.

“I think he just went and did something that he is not going to recover from,” he said.

Andy Rathbun:425-339-3455; arathbun@heraldnet.com