Calif. School Board Resigns After They’re Caught Mocking Parents in Babysitter, Marijuana Comments
The board members did not realize their meeting was open to the public
An entire California school board has resigned after they were caught on camera making disparaging comments about parents in a virtual meeting they did not realize was being broadcast to the public.
Oakley Union Elementary School District Superintendent Greg Hetrick announced that board members Kim Beede, Erica Ippolito, Richie Masadas and Lisa Brizendine, the president, were stepping down in a letter to the community on Friday.
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"We deeply regret the comments that were made in the meeting of the Board of Education earlier this week," Beede, Ipoolito and Masadas said in a statement. "As trustees, we realize it is our responsibility to model the conduct that we expect of our students and staff, and it is our obligation to build confidence in District leadership; our comments failed you in both regards, and for this we offer our sincerest apology."
The incident went viral on Wednesday after an anonymous person recorded it and shared it to YouTube, explaining that the board had provided log-in information on its website, and that they had begun recording after "one of the board members spoke poorly of parents of students."
In the eight-minute video, the board members discussed remote learning and the negative feedback they'd received from parents, and Beede at one point asked whether the group was "alone" before she spoke.
"If you're going to call me out, I'm gonna f— you up," she said. "That's just me."
In response, Brizendine said, "I forget that there's real people on the other side of those letters that they're writing… They don't know what we do behind the scenes, and it's really unfortunate that they want to pick on us because they want their babysitters back."
Masadas also said that his brother ran a delivery service for medical marijuana, and that some of his clients were "parents with their kids in school."
"When you got your kids at home, no more smoking out," he said.
The video ended when Beede said, "Uh oh," and alerted the others that someone had texted her saying the meeting that they thought was private was actually open to the public.
"Nuh uh," Brizendine responded, before a sarcastic voice said "great" and the screen went to black.
Backlash to the video was swift, and a Change.org petition demanding the board members' resignation was signed by more than 7,250 people.
"That blew my mind," Angela Palacio, who has four children in the district, told The New York Times. "I was like, what, are you kidding me? It just showed the lack of respect that our school board has for parenting as well as the people in our community."
According to KTVU, some parents even staged a "Zoom out" on Thursday, in which they kept their children out of virtual classes in protest.
"It's okay if you don't want to send your child to school and it's okay if you do, but don't degrade parents and the teachers by calling them babysitters," parent Claudine Zambrana told the outlet. "No one is a babysitter here."
In their joint statement, Beede, Ippolito and Masadas said that they were stepping down so as to help keep the focus on the needs of the children.
"This was a difficult decision, but we hear the community's concerns, and we believe yielding to your request that we step down will allow the District to move forward," the statement read.
Brizendine, meanwhile, offered a separate statement to The Mercury News apologizing for her "callous and uncalled for" comments.
"In my response to a situation, I talked about how some people don't realize that we, as the board are people; I then made a flippant comment that 'they don't want their babysitters back,'" she said. "I think in some respects, I said that because I too want desperately for schools to open again. I am raising a 10-year-old with special needs and having him home during this pandemic, while also holding down two jobs to support my family, has been a huge stress."
Hetrick, who was present on the Wednesday call but did participate in the controversial conversation, said the "unfortunate situation will not discourage or detract" him from "working to build back the trust in our community and return our students safely back to school as soon as possible."
According to the Times, students in the district have been learning remotely since March.