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Submitted by on 1, August 31, 2009 – 6:00 am8 Comments
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Saturday's town hall meeting

The group behind efforts to recall three school board trustees over lessons intended to halt anti-gay bullying introduced themselves to about three dozen people at a town hall meeting Saturday at the Alameda Free Library.

Leaders of S.E.R.V.E. Alameda accused trustees Tracy Jensen, Ron Mooney and Niel Tam of placing a national “LGBT agenda” over the will of local residents when they voted for the lessons last May, and they think the trio should lose their school board seats as a result.

They cast the board’s approval of the lessons as an attack on people of different races and ethnicities, nationalities, religions and the disabled because, they said, those groups – which are considered protected classes under state law – don’t receive similar treatment in the district’s anti-bullying lesson plans even though they said students are bullied more on the basis of race and other factors than sexual preference.

“S.E.R.V.E. Alameda’s position is that if you protect one class, you’re bullying the other four,” said Dion Evans, a local parent and pastor who is leading the recall effort. “If all of them can’t be at the table, then none of them should be at the table.”

The group’s leaders said they hope to have petitions ready to circulate in mid-September and that if they are successful, an election in the spring. The group would need 8,810 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, Kellie Wood, one of the group’s leaders, said.

Wood said the group had not yet selected candidates to run for the seats if the recall makes it to the ballot. (Her husband, Kevin, said he’d like to see an African American step forward and be on the board.)

The group’s leaders said their efforts are not an attack on gays. “We love this group. We are not haters. Just because we disagree does not mean we hate,” Kellie Wood said.

Still, they said they think the district should focus on academics and that they want the right to teach their kids whether homosexuality is right or wrong.

“What if your 5-year-old son came home and said, ‘Mommy, daddy, I support gay marriage?’ What if your fifth grade daughter said, ‘Me and my friends, we want to be boys?'” Kevin Wood said. “This is a radical and unnecessary step. And it is being foisted upon us despite our objections.”

Evans said he didn’t think parents would like it if the district introduced an “African American curriculum” featuring the films “Amistad,” a movie about an 1839 mutiny aboard a slave ship headed to America, and “The Great Debaters,” a film about a debate coach at an historically black college trying to get his debate team into a Harvard competition during the 1930s, when racist Jim Crow laws were in effect.

District officials told the school board this past Tuesday that they think the just-approved lessons are a good start, but they think the lessons should do more to address bullying against students based on race, religion and other factors. So they are working to find a new, more inclusive set of violence prevention lessons for the district’s elementary schools.

Interim Assistant Superintendent Ruben Zepeda told the board he plans to put together a committee that includes a broad spectrum of community members and parents to help guide the district’s decision on new lessons. (He’ll also put together a committee made up of district staff to review instructional materials.) Zepeda said he wants to have new lessons to present to the school board before Thanksgiving.

Evans said Tuesday he hopes to be a part of those efforts, though he said he still wants the district to suspend the lessons planned for this fall.

One participant in the town hall, Mitchelle Tanner, questioned some of the group’s assertions. She was shouted down by other audience members after a back-and-forth exchange with S.E.R.V.E. leaders.

Another participant asked how many teachers oppose the lessons, which school district staff said were requested by teachers. The group’s leaders said that teacher’s unions have supported such lessons, though they said that some teachers locally had said they disagree with the lessons but didn’t want to speak up for fear of losing their jobs.

The lessons are part of the district’s broader violence-prevention curriculum and are slated to be taught this fall. District officials said they could not say what dates the lessons would be taught because they are taught on an as-needed basis.

More than 800 people submitted comments to the district on the lessons, with 378 people supporting it, 405 opposed and 30 expressing concerns about the process, according to School Board President Mike McMahon’s website.

8 Comments »

  • dave says:

    They aren't as interested in seeing other groups included; they won't rest until LGBT is excluded.

  • Sean G. says:

    S.E.R.V.E. knows the District is working to find an explict new curriculum. Two of their quoted leaders, Woods and Evans, were at the Board meeting and Evans even spoke.

    They choose to ignore facts.

    Curious that they continue to ignore the fact that the existing curriculum is suppose to be protecting "the other four" protected classes. I also wonder which class they are leaving out?

  • Tim R says:

    They are not ignoring the fact that the board caved into a threat of recall. They are simply saying that it does not matter. The board members refused to do as the people asked… plain and simple. They showed themselves to be more interested in the whims of a special interest group than in the will of the people of Alameda. What they have done since out of fear for their jobs is just not relevant to the recall. There needs to be consequences for those who ignore the will of the people. Evans and the others have said this quite clearly, but the press never seems to find column space for these quotes. I wonder who else is cozy with special interests?

  • Susan Davis says:

    Tim,

    Correction: The board members did not ignore "the will of the people." The board members made a decision that displeased *some* of the people in Alameda. That often happens in a democracy.

    Many of us who send our children to schools in the district have seen the Board make decisions we don't agree with. Thank goodness we don't all call for recalls every time it happens. It would create total chaos and set a terrible example for our children.

  • Sean G. says:

    Well Tim, it seems you may not know the what the Board's vote was in May. The Board, while adding to the Caring Schools curriculum, also asked the Superintendent to add to the existing information and monitor the implementation. So now the District says to the board we have a good curriculum but not great so lets do better and find it, means the board is caving to the recall? Really!

    Sounds to me like the Superintendent is doing what the Board asked in May – imagine that follow up by the schools!

    I also agree that the Board did what the majority of Alamedans, including parents, wanted. We should celebrate our schools, not tear them down!

  • Susan Davis says:

    Is it possible that SERVE has not yet heard that the district is going to expand the anti-bullying curriculum to include other protected classes? Evans’ comment “if you protect one class, you’re bullying the other four,” seems to completely ignore this fact.

    I remain puzzled as to why SERVE is hurtling toward a recall effort when the district is actually doing exactly what this group has requested.

  • Parent says:

    The vote was clearly a mistake, there is always middle ground, and when you need a parcel tax, you can't alienate the votes you need.

    We need a BOE which is willing to direct the Superintendant to do what is right for Alameda Students, not necessarily a feel-good, PC vote. The Board should have had the wisdom to require the Lesson9 committee to be inclusive, not exclusive.

    Their failure with such a big issue for the community requires them to step down or be voted out. This is the type of decision which will prevent the needed parcel tax. I can not expect good judgment for those who display such poor judgment. I will not support a Board loaded with such poor judgment. Get them off.

    If you listen carefully to what Vital was trying to avoid saying, looks like they need to not use that curriculum, and they know that is what the courts will instruct them. –Remember AUSD just staffed a ‘legal dept’ this summer? They know they have to replace the lesson 9. They are not listening to the people, just to the lawyers. It is a shame we need lawyers to make AUSD listen, but the BOE is not doing their job.

    The trust is obviously broken.

  • Skippy the Athiest says:

    There are few people of “faith” that in my opinion deserve much of my respect. Those that do, are those who do not have “faith” that their understanding and that their view of the world, is the only possibly correct one. Faith as defined in the bible, which is what most of those “faithful” quote as their source of inspiration, is as follows:

    “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 -KJ

    I call that simply being tricked/duped into believing something for which there is no “real” evidence.

    There is absolutely no evidence that
    associating with,
    talking about,
    working with,
    discussing the human rights of,
    befriending,
    allowing your children to be watched by,
    caring for,
    sharing a meal with,
    shaking hands with,
    rubbing elbows with,
    striving to reduce the oppression of,
    or any other normal day to day contact with, that I can possibly think of, that will make someone into, or pre-dispose someone to become, any of the minorities in question which absolutely deserve protection from discrimination under the law.

    Doing any of those things with say for instance a left handed person will not make me left handed.(my wife is left handed … I know this ;-))

    Doing any of those things with a Republican conservative will not make me a Republican.

    Doing any of those things with one of my christian neighbors will not make me into a christian.

    Doing any of those things with one of my Hindu friends from work will not turn me into a Hindu.

    Doing any of these things with

    Doing all of these things will however help us all to realize that these, like all people, are all human beings like us, that have the same needs desires and as the founders of the country wrote, the same inalienable rights as the rest of us.

    Continuing to be so ignorant and xenophobic is merely slowing the natural progression or EVOLUTION(yes, sorry another dig at the religious left) if you will, of the human species.

    Keep your religious “faith” out of our public schools and out of our government, it has absolutely no place there. If you do not want your children exposed to “those people”, keep them in religious schools. If that is too expensive for you, ask your religious organizations to make it affordable for you to keep your children in ignorance, ask them to make it more affordable for you to continue to teach intolerance, fear of those who are different from themselves, and possibly hate.

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