Ed. Note: Explicit Language is present in the following article.
Members of a Northern California school board all resign after unknowingly broadcasting themselves publicly trash-talking concerned parents in their district.
An entire Northern California school board resigned last week after footage came out of them mocking parents in a Webex meeting they believed to be private.
A recording of a recent Oakley Union Elementary School District board meeting emerged online last Thursday. Board members were seen having what they believed to be a private conversation, in which they spoke harshly about parents in the district.
Their conversation started out civil, but the discussion changed after they began addressing rude letters and public comments from parents wanting their kids back in school.
“Are we alone?” board member Kim Beede asked as the conversation shifted. “B—, if you’re going to call me out, I am going to f—, you up!” The other board members only laughed in response, and Beede continued, “Sorry! That’s just me.”
The board continued insinuating that the parents only wanted their kids back in school because they didn’t want to have them around.
Some of the board’s frustration also came from feeling as though the parents writing the letters didn’t have empathy for the position the board was in.
“They forget that there’s real people on the other side of those letters that they’re writing,” said board President Lisa Brizendine. “They don’t know what we go through behind the scenes and it’s really unfortunate that they want to pick on us because they want their babysitters back.”
At one point board member Richie Masadas said that his brother used to have a medical marijuana delivery service and his biggest clientele was parents with kids in school. Masadas speculated that the parents who were complaining wanted their kids out of the house so they could get high again.
The board members only realized they weren’t in a private meeting room after a member of the public left a comment giving them a heads up. Moments later the board members’ faces were replaced by a screen reading, “Practice session in progress,” but the damage had already been done.
The public’s response to the incident was strong. A recall effort for the board members began, and parents created a petition on change.org for the board members to resign. The district’s superintendent, Greg Hetrick, released a letter last Friday stating that board members Beede, Masadas, Brizendine and Erica Ippolito had submitted their resignations.
“We were having a private conversation because we were really struggling at that moment with all the Board comments coming in because we want what’s best for the kids so badly,” said Brizendine at the end of the meeting.
The sentiment of parents wanting their kids back in school is not uncommon across California.
One such group that shares this sentiment is Open Schools California, a group of California parents that are pressing for a safe return to in-person instruction. They believe that science proves students can return to school safely if Governor Gavin Newsom and elected officials prioritize this issue.
Further support for this sentiment was seen at the Let Them Play rallies that took place on Jan. 15. Parents and students organized protests in towns across California to show their support for a safe return to organized youth sports and to petition for lawmakers to loosen restrictions.
“The parents really want their kids out here and [Governor Newsom] needs to relax the rules,” said Michelle Heverly, a parent who attended one of the rallies, in an interview with The Independent. “There are plenty of safety precautions we can take and the boys can be out here and play safely.”
Although Governor Newsom has been previously criticised for not putting a return to in-person schooling first, in a recent interview with ABC News Sunday, the governor said he’s advocating for schools to reopen soon. He said that he’s hoping to do this safely by prioritizing the vaccination of teachers.
The Oakley School Board incident only highlights the tension educational leaders are facing considering important decisions regarding schools reopening. Lawmakers have begun to shift their focus in recent weeks to returning children to classrooms, although few advancements have been made thus far.