The vice president of the La Mesa-Spring Valley Board of Education in California is facing calls to resign after she accused fellow board members of invoking “White supremacist ideology” by demanding officials set a date for reopening classrooms.
School Board Vice President Charda Bell-Fontenot grew irritated during a public Zoom meeting Tuesday after members said they needed a vote that night on a return-to-school date, citing a survey that said 70-80% of students wanted to return to in-person learning.
“Where are they?” Ms. Bell-Fontenot fired back, demanding to know the “language group” of the survey participants and where they lived “geographically.”
“That seems like a very white supremacist ideology, to force people to comply with and conform, just letting you know,” she said, CBS 8 reported. “Privilege, check it you guys.”
“I don’t want to be a part of forcing anybody to do anything they don’t wanna do. That’s what slavery is. I’m not gonna be a part of it,” she added.
Later in the meeting, a fellow board member said, “You keep throwing out the racism but I’m Hispanic. I don’t understand that part either, I’m confused, that’s it,” ABC 10 reported.
The board ultimately voted to reopen classrooms on April 19 for two days a week, two hours a day. Ms. Bell-Fontenot was the only member to vote no, CBS 8 reported.
A petition calling on her to resign reached more than 2,500 signatures as of Friday morning.
La Mesa-Spring Valley Superintendent David Feliciano issued a statement on behalf of the board Thursday condemning Ms. Bell-Fontenot’s comments and the “racist” backlash she’s apparently received as a result.
“She behaved in a manner the Board does not condone, nor did her behavior represent our values and our commitments to our students, community, and to each other,” the statement read. “We have received many emails and calls of great concern from our families and community members. While we were also disappointed and offended by Trustee Fontenot‘s behavior, we were saddened to learn that she has received hateful, racist, and threatening communications as a result. We strongly condemn behavior that is racist, discriminatory or threatens violence of any kind.”
Cory Briggs, an attorney who said he is representing Ms. Bell-Fontenot, issued a statement to CBS 8 on Thursday defending her comments.
“Trustee Bell firmly believes, based on the evidence, that re-opening schools without a plan to ensure that every child is fully protected and fully supported will perpetuate, if not worsen, the disparities that LMSVS students of color and their families already face,” the statement read. “She objected to her colleagues’ plan not because it went too far, but because it did not go far enough to ensure that students return to a learning environment that is equally safe and supportive for every single one of them. She makes no apologies for her conviction that looking out for the safety, well-being, and opportunity of every student is far and away the most sacred responsibility of the Trustees.”