|School Board Recall Moving Forward|
Published: Thursday, 27 August 2009 21:59
Signature gatherers have become a part of Alameda's political landscape. Both Alameda's firefighters and SunCal supporters have run successful signature-gathering campaigns. Representatives from S.E.R.V.E. Alameda will soon set up their tables and approach the Island's registered voters. They are hoping that at least 8,447 voters sign three petitions, each aimed at removing a school-board member who voted to implement the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender Chapter 9 curriculum in the coming school year. School board members Tracy Jensen, Ron Mooney and Neil Tam all face recall. Board president Mike McMahon and board member Trish Spencer, who voted against the curriculum, are not part of the recall effort.
Tracy Jensen, the most senior member of the board subject to the recall, points out that both students and teachers have said that homophobic bullying is a problem.
"Sixty-two percent of Alameda teachers asked the school board to give them curriculum to teach students to respect others," Jensen said in her written reply to the recall. "The school board voted to make schools safer by adopting an anti-bullying curriculum that was approved by the California Department of Education."
Jensen said that the newly adopted curriculum "will teach elementary students to respect others by focusing on the importance of the family unit and without referring to sexual activity." She quotes the recall's wording, saying that "if the goal of the recall is actually to ensure that 'schools provide a safe campus for all students,' then this recall is unnecessary because the anti-bullying curriculum adopted by the school board on May 26, 2009, supports that objective."
"As a member of the Alameda Unified School District school board, it is my responsibility to think about the good of our children, teachers and parents. Providing a safe inclusive school environment is a top priority," board member Neil Tam said in his written reply to his recall.
Tam said that the recall contains a "critical inaccuracy." He says that the school district already as a program that addresses racial and ethnicity, gender, disability, nationality and religion. He points to community meetings in which the school board listened to parental concerns for and against an anti-bullying curriculum. He says that he then voted "to strengthen the current school district's anti-bullying curriculum by adding an additional 45 minute lesson at the recommendation of staff."
Ron Mooney also found fault with the recall's wording. "Simply put, proponents of the recall have their facts wrong," Mooney said in the reply that he filed. "Based on feedback I received, my vote represents the will of the majority of our families and residents — not the opinion of a small, vocal group." Mooney said that his vote made "sure our schools are inclusive and safe for all children and families. I voted to support our teachers and administration, and to provide the tools they need to educate our youth."
S.E.R.V.E. Alameda, the group that institute the recall, is planning to host will host a series of monthly town hall meetings. The first one is scheduled for 10 a.m. this Saturday in the council chambers at Alameda City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Ave.
On another front, attorneys from the Pacific Justice Institute have rolled up their sleeves to offer no-cost representation for 20 Alameda parents. The parents filed the suit on Aug. 12, claiming that AUSD must provide an opt-out clause to parents who choose not to include their children in the Chapter 9 curriculum. One week later on Aug. 19 the conservative lobbying group Capitol Resource Institute weighed in with an online letter to its supporters.
"Parents in the Alameda school district have been fighting a battle for all California parents: stopping homosexual indoctrination in their children's classrooms," CRI said. "Storybooks, group discussions, art activities, and film are part of the lesson plans for kindergarteners through fifth graders in Alameda."