The vice president of a California school board is drawing criticism after she compared returning teachers to in-person instruction to slavery and accused the 80 percent of parents in the district who want the school to reopen of exhibiting a “white supremacy ideology.”
La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board Vice President Charda Bell-Fontenot grew increasingly hostile during a recent Zoom meeting as her fellow board members pressed for a vote on a school-reopening plan.
“We have to give the teachers, we have to give the students, we have to give the parents a date,” one board member can be heard saying in a video of the meeting posted to Facebook.
“We don’t have to give anybody any date. We don’t have to do anything we don’t want to do right now,” replies an off-screen speaker, who has been identified as Bell-Fontenot in media reports.
“We don’t have to do anything we don’t want to do right now,” Bell-Fontenot adds. “That’s what you don’t understand. I don’t know where you’re getting information or who is telling you that we have to make a decision today, but that is not how this works.”
The board member later says that “70 to 80 percent” of parents want their children to return to school.
“The 70 and 80 percent, who are they?” the vice president asks. “I would like to know geographically from which school sites, which language group, and how they conducted this feedback. Where? Please give it to me before I can make a decision. I can’t make one. I can not make one. And I will not make one.”
“Why are we forcing what seems like a very white-supremacist ideology to force people to comply with, you know, and conform?” she said.
“Just letting you know, privilege, check it guys,” she adds. “I don’t want to be part of forcing anybody to do anything they don’t want to do, that’s what slavery is. I’m not going to be part of it.”
The board on Tuesday ultimately voted 4–1 to approve Superintendent David Feliciano’s plan to reopen schools, according to NBC San Diego.
Feliciano had pushed for a return to in-person instruction, citing new California Department of Public Health guidance that preschool to 6th-grade students may return to school in counties where case rates fall below 25 for five straight days.
The reopening plan would see K–6 students learning via a hybrid model beginning April 19, with students split into two groups learning remotely via Zoom in the mornings and attending school in-person about twice a week.