News (USA)

Voters toss school board members who forced outing of students

Mar 5, 2024; Arlington, Virginia, USA; Voters at Glebe Elementary School in Arlington, VA as voters take to the polls on Super Tuesday in Virginia. Mandatory Credit: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY
Voters at Glebe Elementary School in as voters take to the polls on Super Tuesday in Arlington, Virginia. Photo: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

Voters in Orange, California, voted to oust two school board members who championed a policy that forced teachers and councilors to out transgender students to their parents.

Madison Miner and Rick Ledesma, the former board president, both lost recall elections that were directly tied to their culture war priorities and opposition to LGBTQ+ rights.

“We did this recall knowing everyone was watching,” Darshan Smaaladen, a leader of the effort and parent, told the LA Times. “These school board takeovers are part of a national trend.”

“But for us it wasn’t about politics. It was about taking politics and personal agendas out of the school board and making students the first priority.”

The school board passed a measure last year that required school staff to notify parents of “any request by the student to use a name that differs from their legal name” or to use pronouns different from those on their original school records. Miner and Ledesma both led the effort.

Other conservative California cities passed similar measures. The California attorney general has filed lawsuits against the school boards to nullify the efforts.

The meeting where the board passed the rule was highly contentious. While opponents were mostly local parents, the religious right and MAGA Republicans showed up en masse to voice support. Most were not local residents or parents.

The meeting devolved into a scuffle and shouting match as both sides held rallies and police struggled to keep the two sides separated. After hours of testimony, the three members who opposed the policy walked out in protest; the measure passed on a 4-0 vote.

Claiming that elections are “rigged” has become a mantra for the far right in recent years, but both board members respected voters’ choices and were somewhat magnanimous in defeat.

At her last board meeting, Miner said she “wanted to say a smooth transition of power is a part of democracy. And while those efforts have been hindered over the last year, I, as a board trustee, will not contribute to that destruction. It has been an honor to serve this community, and I will continue to do so as I was prior to this election.”

“No matter what happens at the board level, this is just a wonderful community,” Ledesma added. “I know I will take great pride in driving around the district and seeing the many, many improvements over my time on this board that have happened with other boards. And I will remember those memories fondly.”

But board member Kris Erickson, who left the meeting in protest, said he was glad the issue was over and would soon be rectified.

“The past 14 months have been extremely challenging and chaotic,” he said. “Rather than engaging in civil and thorough policy discussions about issues that profoundly affect our students, families and district, it has been a year of dramatic gestures and political theater. … It has been disappointing and frustrating to see our OUSD parents and teachers be demonized, ridiculed and, ultimately, ignored. I look forward to improving transparency, civility and fiscal responsibility.”

The remaining board members can appoint two new members to replace Miner and Ledesma or wait until the November election for voters to decide.

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