Where are our school board candidates?
We watched with concern as the atmosphere on social media during the special election for a School Board position grew personal and vitriolic. We are talking about both the outright and purposeful lies and misrepresentation of facts and the line crossed when rather than debating tasks, ideas, or beliefs, the discussion degenerated into personal attacks.
Sixteen people applied for a seat on the School Board last year. Now, months later, only the 2 incumbents, Hon Lien and Minh Ngo, declared their run for the November, 2020 election. Since they are running unopposed, they are able to hold onto their seats.
A number of people in the community believe that the lack of candidates was due to the overwhelming support of the two incumbents; others are not so sure. While we believe Hon and Minh both deserve to return to the school board, we have feedback that raises some concerns about future elections. What happened to the extraordinary interest in serving our children prior to the Special Election?
After interviewing former Applicants and residents, the answers and conclusions are disturbing. While we understand the uncertainty over the pandemic, we believe the overriding reason that people did not file is the outright hostility and personal attacks toward candidates on Social Media, mostly by other parents. We’ve formally spoken to a number of the 16 applicants to the School Board last year and they had some impactful statements…
One statement from someone well-qualified that chose not to run this time went as follows: “After what happened on social media after the interviews it definitely would have impacted my willingness to campaign.” Another qualified applicant stated, “This social media bullying is obnoxious and is a barrier to potential good candidates to run. Too many times, I hear them [interested parents] asking, ‘Why should I have to deal with that, when these people don’t know me?’ Or ‘I don’t want my kids to have to deal with that.’”
One vocal critic of a candidate posted the following when talking about the fact that only 2 candidates filed: “…Only 2 so far and only Minh Ngo will actually represent Parents. The other doesn’t have a vested interest in staying on the Board since her youngest child just graduated. We need someone to think for themselves with a back bone [sic] to stand up for students & parents rights.”
Intimating that someone is a coward is beyond belief. To make matters worse, the poster has never had a conversation with the candidate. In the “final” post of the campaign, the poster actually expressed support for a male candidate who has no children. Was this outright hypocrisy, anti-female bias, or just plain racism?
I responded to this attack under the FB post by publishing some activities and qualifications of the candidate; the “vocal critic” removed their post and blocked me from their page. This is a favorite tactic of people who make statements with no substantiation for their comments. My wife Nancy, who is Asian, wondered if this is just another example of someone perpetuating a stereotype of quiet Asian women as weak! Were the poster’s comments outright racism, sexism, or just trolling? The candidate reported the poster had never even had a conversation with them and had only submitted 2 questions on the campaign’s FB page.
Repeatedly, especially during the special election, and in the past few months, we’ve heard from parents complaining about the horrible example that “mostly parents” are setting for their children with these personal attacks. When the “vocal critic” wondered on Facebook why there were so many candidates for City Council but none for School Board, one school official commented, “Duh, why doesn’t she look in the mirror?”
Marsha Grilli, a Board Member for 20 years, reported on a number of occasions that her activities on the Board led some to verbally abuse her children and attempt to place blame for Board decisions upon them. In almost every case, these were the parents of students in the District.
We’ve lost some very good people/parents who would make great School Board Members. It is the same for Mayor and City Council. When we ask why more “good people” don’t run for office, one clear answer is they do not want to risk their families and children becoming the victims of trolls. Recently a false statement about a Candidate making a racist statement spread throughout the City. Yet when investigated, the initial statement and every supporting statement were found to be from fictitious addresses.
The Community is going to have to choose. We are either going to have to police ourselves and set some standards or we will continue to have “good people” opt out of serving the public. When I asked one candidate if they would respond to some vicious personal attacks on Facebook, their answer was, “I don’t wrestle with pigs. You will get dirty, but the pigs will enjoy it.”