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Education

La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board Member Faces Racist Threats And Recall

The La Mesa-Spring Valley School District Office. Mar. 5, 2021
Guillermo Sevilla
The La Mesa-Spring Valley School District Office. Mar. 5, 2021

A heated debate over school reopenings has left a San Diego County school board in crisis, with one board member receiving racist messages and death threats.

At a board meeting last month at the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, School Board Member Chardá Bell-Fontenot cast the lone vote against a plan that would reopen schools for hybrid instruction on April 19th.

Video: Recall

Bell-Fontenot, who is Black, criticized the reopening plan for forcing teachers to go back into the classroom possibly before they receive their vaccinations. She compared the reopening plan to white supremacy.

“That seems like a very white supremacist ideology to force people to comply and conform without thinking about all of the intersecting factors and barriers that exist for all families,” Bell-Fontenot said at the Feb. 23 meeting.

“We’re thinking about one type of family when you’re speaking right now. Privilege. Check it you guys,” she said.

RELATED: The Black Student Experience In San Diego Unified Is Better, But Still Needs Improvement

What followed was a heated exchange not just with other board members, but with district Superintendent David Feliciano.

“[The board members] can speak for themselves if they have an issue with me they can tell me, but you don’t need to speak for them, David,” Bell-Fontenot said.

“I can speak for them if I choose to,” Feliciano responded.

“Well don’t say that you can speak for others, that’s not appropriate,” Bell-Fontenot said.

Following the meeting, Bell-Fontenot received several racist messages and death threats. Board President Rebecca McRae said while she disapproved of the “tenor” of Bell-Fontenot’s comments, she condemned the racist attacks.

“We are disgusted by it. For the past week, the school district has had to bring in additional support to cover the number of calls we are receiving,” McRae said in a written statement. “People from around the country are calling and screaming obscenities at district staff. It is truly sad.”

RELATED: Study: Black Students Still More Likely To Face Harsh Discipline

Bell-Fontenot’s attorney Cory Briggs also issued a written statement, saying his client sought to represent the interests of students of color who have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

“Nobody wants to see students return to school more than Trustee Bell,” Briggs said. “Her concern has always been and remains making sure that every student returns to the safest learning environment possible.”

On Thursday, Carl DeMaio, the chairman of conservative advocacy group Reform California, launched a recall campaign against Bell-Fontenot.

“School board members that decide to put politics over the priorities of our children, the interest of our children, they must be confronted with public pressure, and if necessary with recalls, that’s our only recourse,” DeMaio said.

Before the recall effort started, nearly 4,500 people signed a petition demanding Bell-Fontenot resign. The recall, however, requires 13,700 signatures to move forward.