District meetings remain divided
Tied votes plagued resolutions at last week’s board meeting
October 20, 2022
Trustee Michael Allman opened the Oct. 13th board meeting promising “actions, not words” when it comes to repercussions regarding the recent antisemitism at Carmel Valley Middle School.
The Mustang Commons, where it was held, was a bit less crowded than September’s board meeting, with many teachers using their Thursday nights to canvass for school board candidates up for the next election and many in attendance were regular meeting attendees, familiar faces to those who’ve been keeping up online or in-person.
On the docket was a resolution from Trustee Katrina Young for measures against hate speech in board meetings, a resolution from a parent reportedly meant to track LGBTQIA+ discrimination in schools, a resolution to censure Trustee Julie Bronstein, and two resolutions that were pulled from the agenda regarding discrimination against queer students that dealt with the events of the last board meeting. These, in addition to measures to manage antisemitism, were the main focuses of all 52 public comments made by community members, teachers, and even past board members.
First, Trustee Young’s resolution “of the governing board’s response to hate speech” outlined some opportunities for trustees to acknowledge and label hate speech during board meetings. It would allow for trustee responses after public comments, and public disapproval of any hate speech community members choose to write into their own public comment speeches. Some spoke about how this would protect the safe space they hope to provide during the meetings, but others accused it of limiting the rights outlined in the First Amendment. This resolution, and others, failed with a two-to-two tie. Trustees Young and Bronstein voted yes, and Trustees Mo Muir and Allman voted no.
A community member, Mars Cheung, who said he found Allman to be “a man who cares deeply about his community and the students who reside in it”, introduced a resolution to introduce action steps for the district regarding gender and sexuality-based discrimination on campuses. In it, Cheung wrote that the “amplification of recent social media posts” had hurt the LGBTQIA+ community, referring to the recent claims of transphobia against many comments made in Trustee Allman’s private Facebook group, “SDUHSD Families for Students First”. The resolution also asked the interim Superintendent, Tina Douglas, to conduct an investigation into the allegations of discrimination in the district and provide a presentation at a future board meeting.
During the meeting, both Douglas and Associate Superintendent Bryan Marcus pointed out that the reason they cannot provide specific numbers regarding this specific issue is that doing so would encroach on students’ privacy. Trustee Muir asked the other board members, and Superintendent Douglas, if they believed students were being bullied. Douglas responded that “if there was information out there that it was problematic, we would be addressing it” to which Muir responded, “so you’re saying there is not a problem”. The motion failed, in a two-to-two tie, with Trustees Muir and Allman voting yes, and Trustees Young and Bronstein voting no.
Two other resolutions regarding LGBTQIA+ students were pulled from the agenda of Thursday’s meetings. One sought to discipline the students who attended the last board meeting because of alleged hate speech and disruptions after being reminded by Trustee Allman to maintain the decorum of the meeting. The other resolution pulled was the document read by the aforementioned students, which was written by GSA students from SDA and La Costa Canyon, as well as some SDA faculty. After protests erupted at the Encinitas Union School Board board meeting earlier that week, senior Mace Viemeister and other student organizers felt it was best to pull the resolution to protect the community. Viemeister said in his public comment, representing the LGBTQIA+ community in the district that “we did not remove our resolution because we are not proud of it or who we are, but rather because there are adults in the community, who seek to cause us further harm – and we will not subject our peers to that.”
Another topic of much discussion was the censure, or resolution to express strong disapproval, of Trustee Julie Bronstein. She reportedly read off an email from the Teacher’s Association as her own writing, which goes against district policy. Community members and even a past board member spoke during public comment to remark on Bronstein’s educational experience, leadership capabilities, and skills she has brought to the district. Not as many members spoke up against her, and the motion failed, in a two-to-two tie, with Trustees Muir and Allman voting yes, and Trustees Young and Bronstein voting no.
Finally, of much discussion at the meeting was the recent antisemitic events at Carmel Valley Middle School, and an “acknowledgment to work with Jewish Community Leaders”. After a teacher in the district allegedly put up posters with Adolf Hitler in her classroom next to pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. as an example of “ great leadership skills”, a student spoke up, but his request for the poster to be taken down was not honored until his father got involved, emailing the principal that her failure “was pretty pathetic”. Since then, many parents and Jewish community members have called for the dismissal of the teacher, and turned against the San Dieguito Faculty’s Association, whom they feel is responsible.
Anti-union parents turned up in droves for the meeting and in support of Michael Allman, who voted no on the renewal of the teacher’s contract. No specific resolutions were passed at the meeting, but Board Members made promises to begin collaborations with concerned community members. Trustee Bronstein stated in her opening statement that she had already begun holding meetings with Jewish organizations all over the county, and even one in Los Angeles, on this issue. Bronstein is Jewish and grew up attending a congregation in San Diego.
Overall, the meeting was charged, with many becoming passionate, and sometimes hateful or tearful, at the podium. With each two-minute comment, the polarization became starker, and the clapping grew more pointed. It’s also important to note that this meeting was more individual and less partisan than those in the past. Many comments addressed and named certain board members in particular, rather than advocating for or against an issue. This could be because of the upcoming election but did nothing to lessen tensions last Thursday. There were few students in attendance, which was in part a deliberate decision to keep LGBTQIA+ students out of the crossfire, but as the meeting went on, eventually there were only a couple of students in the room, the space becoming more parent-focused. The next board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 17, and anyone interested can find the full livestream of Thursday’s board meeting, in addition to the agenda and resolutions, on the SDUHSD website.