District Parents Stand Up to School Board that Banned Obama’s Speech

by on September 15, 2009 · 20 comments

in Civil Rights, Election, Media, Organizing, San Diego

Great to see all the people who came La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board meeting calling for the resignation of the members who voted not to allow students to see the President's address.

Great to see all the people who came La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board meeting calling for the resignation of the members who voted not to allow students to see the President's address. All photos by Patty Jones.

LA MESA, CA.   I felt exhilarated tonight.   I  had just witnessed dozens and dozens of parents of the La Mesa Spring Valley School District chant “Resign! Resign! Resign!” to Trustee Rick Winet – the right-wing instigator who had caused the Board to vote to prohibit the showing of President Obama’s speech to school kids.  At a special Labor Day meeting, the East County board had voted 3-2 to ban the live showing of the speech.  Then, in emails and publicly, Winet had declared that the speech was an assault on the Constitution.

La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board meeting, September 15, 2009.

La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board meeting, September 15, 2009.

Tonight, Winet’s partisan extremism indeed felt the backlash. It was the backlash of ordinary parents, of ordinary people, of ordinary Americans. And I was proud to have stood with them tonight, clapping and calling for the resignation of the band of right-wingers who propelled this particular school district into an unwanted notoriety.  One speaker later in the evening lectured the Board, that because of their decision, “I had to defend where I live! My friends all said ‘That’s why I don’t live in East County.'”

We had attended the La Mesa Spring Valley School Board meeting being held at the Parkway Middle School. A school, by the way, that has still not shown Obama’s speech. It was the first meeting of the board since their notorious vote on September 7th.  The vote to ban the live broadcast of the President’s speech to the 12,800 students at the 21 schools in the district.

And tonight we witnessed the vast majority of the 200 parents and teachers who crowded into the school auditorium stand up to the right-wing dominated board.  The room broke into applause as speaker after speaker derided the board’s vote, and many demanded that those who voted for the ban resign. It was a gratifying experience, observing the outrage and fury and eloquence of those who came to the meeting to give the board a slice of their opinion.

We also heard more of what and how it had all come down.  The President’s speech was to be broadcast on Tuesday, September 8th, the day after Labor Day.  The Thursday before, Superintendent Brian Marshall had sent out a robocall to district parents, informing them that those parents who wanted to have their kids opt out of sitting through Obama’s speech could do so, and they had to send in a waiver. Then somehow, a special meeting of the board was organized for Monday on Labor Day.  Not that many people heard about it before hand. But during the meeting, various proposals came up to delay or ban outright Obama’s speech – which by that time had become public (we even posted it). Rick Winet tried to have the speech banned for good. It was socialistic, he said.

A final resolution to ban the live airing of the speech passed, with board president Penny Halgren and Trustee Bob Duff joining Winet voting for the ban.  Vice-president Emma Turner and Trustee Bill Baber voted against the ban.

Another robocall went out – this time giving parents 12 hours notice that the speech would not be broadcast to the school children. Not enough time to react.

This shot of Rick Winet was taken as the crowd called for his resignation from the La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board.

This shot of Rick Winet was taken as the crowd called for his resignation from the La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board.

Since the vote and since the speech, President Halgren and Duff apologized. That was on the 9th.  Winet stuck to his position. Meanwhile the District was being inundated with angry emails from parents and others in the community. The next day even Winet apologized – partially.  He said a better resolution could have been crafted.

The uproar in the community to the vote was very apparent.  Letters to the editor at the Union-Tribune all criticized the Board’s decision.  The backlash was very apparent tonight.

The board meeting opened tonight with Halgren and Duff again apologizing. “I’m so sorry for my actions to vote to delay President Obama’s speech,” board prez Halgren iterated.

Then Rick Winet spoke.  “I’m not apologizing – I think we could have crafted a better resolution,” and then describing how grade 3 teachers agreed with him.

This was met with the first “boo’s” of the evening. Then he said, “I’m sorry many of you have taken this to the extent you have taken it.” Then laughter.

Penny Halgren took the mike and explained the rules for the evening – that they were opening it up as a public hearing.  And speak the public did.

Speaker after speaker moved up to the podium. All but one derided the Board and their decision. A couple of sixth graders spoke – they said they were disappointed in the board. Others called for those who voted to block the speech to resign.  Then the speakers got more specific – they demanded that Rick Winet resign.  Chants of “resign! resign!’ accompanied by thunderous applause broke out several times.

Some called for the board to issue an apology to the students. Some suggested that racism was at the bottom of the vote.

The board finally voted to accept the apologies of the three.  And then moved on to other business.  But this is not the end.  Ordinary people have woken up in La Mesa and Spring Valley.  They are watching this board very carefully now.  Perhaps some of them will run for the board themselves. Perhaps some will initiate a recall campaign for the board members who voted to put the President on hold, or for at least Rick Winet.  This is not over. Not by a long shot.

The backlash showed itself tonight.  The backlash of ordinary Americans to the extremism of the right.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar BillRayDrums September 15, 2009 at 11:55 pm

“They accepted the apologies of the three”…Wait a minute here….Winet specifically said “I’m not apologizing – I think we could have crafted a better resolution”.

Sounds like only two apologized. Sounds like one needs a recall shoved up his ass.

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avatar lane tobias September 15, 2009 at 11:57 pm

great reporting on that, I had no idea that over 12,000 kids were denied watching the video.

Kind of plays into what Jimmy Carter said today about outright racism being the real reason behind all the reckless animosity from the right. Thanks for being there.

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avatar doug porter September 16, 2009 at 7:21 am

i saw you on channel 10 last night.

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avatar annagrace September 16, 2009 at 9:08 am

This Frank is “the rest of the story”- proof that sane people are out in great numbers to push back against the right wing freak show. Will this get picked up nationally? I would certainly hope so, but am not holding my breath.

The bums were voted in; the bums can be voted out…

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avatar doug porter September 16, 2009 at 10:45 am

anna, this has been picked at daily kos. that counts as national in my book. oh, and, welcome kossaks.

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avatar Shawn Conrad September 16, 2009 at 9:43 am

These people know what is best for our kids. If they make the decisions not to let their children be bombarded by Imperialistic dogma I say “Bravo”.

These kids need to be taught early what to think, see, and listen to. If they are exposed to too broad of a knowledge base they will grow up to want and make changes. Obviously no one wants that.

We need to keep these young people sheltered from new and strange ideas so that everything can remain as it is.

By limiting their spectrum of knowledge we can continue to wage wars, and these youth will be more than willing to go die for the causes of the rich.

I really do not see a problem.

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avatar Dickie September 16, 2009 at 10:38 am

great article, Frank. I am proud of SD county and all you Ragsters and the way folks have stood up to the grass roots rightwing mobilization down there. Gives me a little hope for persevering up here in Shasta County where the right is predominant . . .
. . .and I got the chills at:

“It was the backlash of ordinary parents, of ordinary people, of ordinary Americans. And I was proud to have stood with them tonight, clapping and calling for the resignation of the band of right-wingers who propelled this particular school district into an unwanted notoriety.”

keep up the energy!!.

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avatar annagrace September 16, 2009 at 10:52 am

Hey Doug- that’s National in my book too! Kudos!

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avatar story September 16, 2009 at 11:02 am

imagine the uproar if this happened when Bush was president. they would have been deported to guantanamo bay by now.

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avatar Frank Gormlie September 16, 2009 at 11:08 am

Doug Porter posted this article on Daily Kos – and it quickly shot to their recommended list early on. More recently, it is the number 1 recommended story. Daily Kos receives a million hits a day. This is really an honor – thanks Doug. by 11 am west coast time, my post already had over 150 comments. To see the article and read their comments – go here. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/9/16/782833/-School-Board-Apologizes-for-Banning-Obama-Speech

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avatar annagrace September 16, 2009 at 11:38 am

Frank- thanks for your well written coverage that tells it like it is.

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avatar annagrace September 16, 2009 at 11:50 am

I cut and pasted this response from Rick Winet to the posting of Frank’s article on the Daily Kos. Read and respond!

” I appreciate and respect the passion and the opinions expressed by both sides on this topic.

It is my intent to describe in this statement my reasoning behind voting in the majority for the Board Action taken on September 7, 2009.

The La Mesa-Spring Valley School District Board voted 3-to-2 to record the speech and lesson plans provided by the President and the Secretary of Education on September 8, 2009, allow for parent participation, notification, and opt-out, and then have the President’s message delivered in the appropriate K-through-8 classes – as determined by the teachers in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District.

My personal objection to the proposed presentation and curriculum by the President and the Secretary of Education centered on 2 areas:

1. This was a direct assault on The Constitution of The United States of America. U.S.C. code 3503 clearly states that Congress prohibits the Executive Branch from overriding local school boards and local branches of government of control of public school curriculum. This Secretary of State, Arne Duncan, issued a politically charged e-mail along with irresponsible “lesson plans” in his initial notice to public schools. The President’s “speech” and the Secretary’s “lesson plans” were changed and revised no less than twenty times prior to September 8. While many would like compare this presentation to that of prior Presidents Ronald Wilson Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush, neither of these Presidents included public school curriculum in their communications with students. This administration actually lowered itself to asking students to “write a letter to themselves and ask themselves what they can do to help the President.” I would not and will not ever support this sort of selfish, socialistic message as public school curriculum.

2. The President’s speech and lesson plans were, in the end, clearly focused to deliver a message to high school age students. While I concur with most of the contents of this final script, this is not a meaningful message for the great majority of La Mesa-Spring Valley students. We are a K-through-8 school district and, as Board President Halgren clearly stated in her motion on September 7 (which I seconded and Member Duff concurred), this message was not appropriate for a vast majority of our students.

La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board Members have received hundreds of e-mails on this topic. Prior to our Board decision on September 7, a majority of those communications were asking us not to show the President’s message live on the morning of September 8. And, in contrast, the majority of e-mails we have received after the Board direction have been critical of the action.

Once again, I understand and respect the passion of each citizen’s opinion on this topic.

Our Founders created three branches of government, so that we would have these types of “checks and balances” – It is my opinion that this Executive Branch, at this time, reached beyond its boundaries and a balanced response was required.

The majority of the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District Board acted with this responsibility in mind on September 7, 2009.”

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avatar Frank Gormlie September 16, 2009 at 12:36 pm

All together now: Recall Rick Winet!

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avatar Michael McCall September 17, 2009 at 9:09 am

I have taught constitutional law and concepts in several classes at the university level over the last decade. I also received this prepared “Public Statement” by email from Trustee Winet. It took me 12 typed pages to respond to him, to demonstrate the factual inaccuracies of his claim. His dismal knowledge of some of our most cherished, fundamental principles, and/or his willingness to distort these is appalling.

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avatar jon September 16, 2009 at 11:56 am

HE LIES!

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avatar missymarple September 16, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Thank you to all who stood up against this deplorable decision by the school board. The right’s push for delegitimatizing President Obama must be quashed now. It can be done one State at a time. But stand up we must! Not in California, this is a state that should never condone censorship of our President. These were despicable actions especially since every single argument they made was absurd. Their interest in dumming down our children and scaring them about the boogyman, Socialism, is outragous. Hold their feet to the fire! Remember the right is all about “divide and conquer” they want power back and if it takes using American’s children as pawns, inciting racists, and every paranoid group who fears government, they will, even if it means starting a civil rights war again which is what they feel would help them. Be aware this is exactly what they hope for to divide this nation even further.

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avatar wscomn September 16, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Saw this on the dKos. Decided to visit your local blog. Very nice, Doug. Good reporting and good news on the “Local Rejection of the Loons” front.

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avatar Frank Gormlie September 16, 2009 at 1:03 pm

Here is contact info for the La Mesa Spring Valley School Board:
If you wish to contact the Board by mail, send to:

Board of Education
La Mesa-Spring Valley School District
4750 Date Ave.
La Mesa, CA 91942-9293
619 668-5700

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avatar doug porter September 16, 2009 at 1:05 pm

winet… now to be known as wingnut is as dumb as a box of rocks. read his comment closely.
“This was a direct assault on The Constitution of The United States of America. U.S.C. code 3503″…gosh, is the USC part of the Constitution now?
and even mo’ betta….. “This Secretary of State, Arne Duncan, issued a politically charged e-mail along with irresponsible “lesson plans” in his initial notice to public schools. ” …has anybody told Hillary she was demoted yet? No? Let me get on the Obamaphone!

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avatar clubstyle_dj September 16, 2009 at 7:54 pm

This was pointed out in another article about this subject on this blog:
(paraphrased)
The most delicious absurdities …the apologies offered by 3 of the 5 member board TO the board itself….and then SECONDED and ACCEPTED by the same members.
(twilight zone theme music plays in the background)

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