GROUP MOUNTS RECALL EFFORT AGAINST SCHOOL BOARD TRUSTEES
A group of local residents has mounted a recall effort against three school board trustees who voted to approve anti-gay bullying lessons that are set to become part of the school district’s elementary school curriculum this fall.
The group, which is calling itself S.E.R.V.E. Alameda, said trustees Tracy Jensen, Ron Mooney and Nielsen Tam passed the lesson plan over the objections of the majority of residents who addressed the board on the subject, and that the curriculum they okayed fails to protect children of different races, genders and religions.
“Basically, these board members decided that they didn’t want to do what the people of Alameda who elected them wanted to be done, and that was to strike down Lesson 9,” said Adam Wooten, one of the 10 people who signed the notice of intention to circulate recall petition (Lesson 9 is the district’s name for the curriculum). “If they don’t want to do what we elected them to do, then why should they remain in office?”
Wooten, who said he learned about the lessons during a final set of public hearings that drew hundreds of people who came out to speak for and against them, said he doesn’t think they are appropriate for elementary school students.
Jensen said she wishes the petitioners would work with the district in order to get their concerns addressed, instead of mounting the campaign.
“I do feel it is unfortunate that Rev. Dion thought it would be more effective to mount a recall campaign than to talk to the district about his concerns,” Jensen said, referring to the Rev. Dion Evans, a vocal critic of the lessons who also signed the notice. “I would be very interested to know exactly what he wants the district to do to support other protected classes, and how the families curriculum would have a chilling effect in that area.”
Evans, who is the senior pastor of Chosen Vessels Christian Church, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Tam said the board has other major challenges to tackle right now, specifically the state budget and its impact on the district’s finances. But he acknowledged this will be an ongoing conversation.
Both he and Mooney said they stand by their votes.
Jensen, Mooney and Tam voted in favor of the lessons in late May (they’re on the district’s website), after two years of work and a series of contentions public hearings. They agreed with proponents who said the curriculum is needed to help teachers curb anti-gay bullying, and also to give gays and their families visibility in Alameda’s public schools, which they said is lacking.
Trustee Trish Spencer, who voted against the lessons, voiced concerns about the lessons not squaring with the religious views of some parents and also said she didn’t think the lessons addressed the needs of other students who could face bullying for different reasons. (Board President Mike McMahon also voted against the lessons after trying to get a temporary opt-out provision put in place.)
District officials said the night of the vote that they would put together a curriculum guide in an effort to prevent harassment of students based on race, religion and other factors. And Superintendent Kirsten Vital said the district would review their existing anti-bullying curriculum to make sure it is meeting students’ needs.
The petitioners have seven days to submit their notice to the City Clerk’s office, and after their petition is certified as sufficient, they’ll have 120 days to circulate their recall petitions for signatures. They will need to get the John Hancocks of 20 percent of the city’s registered voters, or about 8,600 people, in order to qualify for the ballot.
Once the petitions are certified as sufficient to qualify for a ballot, the governing body has 14 days to order an election. The election has to be held between 88 and 125 days after the date it is to be set.
Anyone else who is interested in the job has until 75 days before the election to submit their nomination papers and declare their candidacy.
Separately, the school board will hold a hearing tonight to decide whether to hear an appeal of their decision. Kerry Cook, a vocal opponent of the lessons, filed a complaint about the lessons with the district. The meeting is at 7 p.m. today in the third floor conference room of the district offices, which are at 2200 Central Avenue.
More to come.
From the one-page “Notice of intent to circulate recall petition”:
On May 26, 2009, the school board voted to approve anti-bullying and harassment curriculum by a 3-2 vote. Over the objections of 73% of the citizens addressing the board in three days of hearings, a curriculum was passed that almost completely excluded instruction that would protect elementary school children based on their race and ethnicity, gender, disability, nationality and religion. California law and common sense requires that schools provide a safe campus for all students. Instead, the board gave one group of citizens a near monopoly on anti-bully instruction. All students deserve safe schools. In that board members Ronald Mooney, Tracy Lynn Jensen, and Nielsen Tam were unresponsive to the will of the majority of the citizens of the City of Alameda, the voters have lost faith in these three members’ ability to represent the entire community. As such, their recall and removal from the school board has become necessary.