Politics Have No Place in a Board Room

Sandhya Ganesan, Co-Editor in Chief

It is well known that while student free speech and political actions are well protected, the political speech and actions of teachers are severely restricted. Knowing how contentious an issue of political speech is, it is surprising that CUSD itself engages in stances that are politically divisive. 

In Resolution 2122-43, passed by the CUSD’s Board of Trustees in March, they outlined their opposition against California Senate Bills 871 and 866.

While some students may leave education facilities because of the vaccination resolution, the board seems to slightly dramatize the effects of the resolution. An estimated 66.7% of individuals age 12-17 are already vaccinated in California. The simple fact of this data calls into question the idea that the school system will be severely harmed, as more than half of its demographic is vaccinated and therefore comply with the resolution. 

Both of these bills are public health bills that aid in the vaccination effort in light of the ongoing pandemic.

The resolution mobilized the superintendent in their resolution to send letters communicating their opposition of SB-871 in its current state to the Governor, Speaker of the Assembly, President Pro-Tem of the Senate, and members of the Legislature of the State of California.

It also resolved to have the superintendent of CUSD provide “impartial, informational email or text messages to district parents about SB 871 and SB 866 in both English and Spanish…”. 

However, the directions of the board are difficult to comply with because of the nature of the issue. It is contradictory to empower an acting agent to communicate their stance of opposition and concern about the bills to also provide information that is impartial. 

Furthermore, the resolution neglects a very important population who should be the primary concern: the students. SB-866 entirely concerns students, yet it is only mentioned that parents will receive information about the two bills. 

Board members encouraged many people in their district to continue to protest and petition the California mask mandate during the tense time of pro-mask choice protesting. These posts were made within the same time span that other events, like the death of a student, were occurring.

Vaccinations are a political issue, and research illustrates that partisan divides are strongly correlated to vaccination rates. By taking a public stance against the vaccination legislation, the board is essentially engaging in political speech, which, in context, is questionable at best. 

The racial reckoning in 2020 whose impetus was the murder of George Floyd was an event that was very frequently talked about during the height of the pandemic. This issue of systemic racism is not inherently political, as the freedom from discrimination should be a basic human right. Yet, many politicized the issue. As both representatives for Black and brown individuals in the district, they did not engage with the movement or take a stance of solidarity, yet were extremely quick to speak out about vaccination.

Furthermore, during mask protests and other politically tense times, teachers were instructed not to editorialize their views. While teachers were stifled from sharing their experiences and frustrations, Trustees were able to support pro-mask choice advocates, even while people were mourning the death of a student in the CUSD community. 

CUSD’s Board of Trustees cannot cherry pick causes to care for. If they participate in action against vaccination, which is inherently politicized, they need to follow the precedent they set with other issues and speak on topics such as systemic racism and the validity of science when the issues arise in public spaces of discussion, especially if they affect students and communities in their jurisdiction.

Or, if they choose to restrict teacher’s editorializing their viewpoints, they too need to practice what they preach as an ideally non-partisan school board representing the views of the majority.