A board member of a San Diego public school district claimed that reopening schools for in-person instruction was “white supremacist ideology” and told fellow board members to check their privilege when they discussed potential reopening dates.
According to radio 600 KOGO News Radio, Chardá Bell-Fontenot, the Vice President of La Mesa-Spring Valley Schools, told board members that “forcing” teachers to return to classrooms when they don’t want to was “slavery” after another board member said that the district’s plans shouldn’t solely revolve around vaccination.
“Without any teachers we don’t have the ability to teach the students so that’s where we have to start right now,” Bell-Fontenot said.
“We can’t just say kids can go back into the classrooms when there’s no vaccinated teachers there willing to do that, that’s the problem. So how are we forcing people . . . that seems like a very white supremacist ideology to force people to comply with, you know, and conform without thinking about all of their intersecting factors and barriers that exist for all families.”
“You’re thinking about one type of family when you’re speaking right now,” Bell-Fontenot continued. “Just letting you know. Privilege, check it you guys.”
Bell-Fontenot then told the board to “stop forcing people to do things they don’t want to do.”
“So I don’t want to be a part of forcing anybody to do anything they don’t want to do. That’s what slavery is, I’m not going to be a part of it.”
At one point in the call, a fellow board member shared survey results that showed 70 to 80% of parents favored reopening schools, but Bell-Fontenot disputed the survey findings by asking “who are the 70 to 80 percent and where are they? Which school site? Which language group?”
Board members were trying to establish a date that schools would reopen for in-person instruction, but Bell-Fontenot says the board shouldn’t be voting on the matter tonight and accused board members of “speaking from the heart” and ignoring the facts.
“I don’t understand what the rush is today,” Bell-Fontenot said.
David Feliciano, the superintendent of the district, expressed that he “took great offense” to Bell-Fontenot’s claim that “no one on here knows what they’re talking about right now,” according to the recording.
Feliciano and Bell-Fontenot argue with each other briefly before another board member, which appeared to be Rebecca McRae, the board president, suggests that the two should have the discussion in private.
“Racism doesn’t need to be private, Becky,” Bell-Fontenot responded.
“I would like to say I’m offended by the smirks on you guys’ faces,” she added soon after.
Another board member, who says she is Hispanic, then tells Bell-Fontenot that she’s confused about her claims of racism.
“I’m just confused and I know you keep throwing out the racism, but I am Hispanic,” the board member said. “So I’m Hispanic and I have four adopted children. We look like the UN. So that’s why when you say you’re throwing out the racism, I don’t understand that part either. So I’m just confused.”
Bell-Fontenot did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
Last Friday, the entire school board of another California public school resigned after members were caught making disparaging remarks about parents during a meeting they thought was private. The member made remarks about parents in the district who wanted students to return to classrooms, including claiming that parents just wanted “their babysitters back.” (RELATED: Entire School Board Resigns In California After Being Caught On Video Disparaging Parents Who Wanted Schools To Reopen)
In February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended a return to in-person instruction outside of cases of very high community transmission rates, and said that teachers do not need to be vaccinated for schools to reopen. Dr. Anthony Fauci also said that vaccinating every teacher before reopening schools is a “nonworkable situation” and he did not recommend that schools make teacher vaccinations a prerequisite for reopening.