A California school board vice president argued that "forcing" teachers back into classrooms before they receive COVID-19 vaccinations "seems like a very white supremacist ideology" and is akin to "slavery."
Chardá Bell-Fontenot, vice president of the La Mesa-Spring Valley Board of Education, sparred with numerous board members during Tuesday's virtual meeting and even appeared to accuse district Superintendent David Feliciano of "racism" after he found some of her comments "offensive."
What are the details?
The primary issue was setting a date for teachers to return to in-person instruction. While it appeared most of the individuals at the meeting — Bell-Fontenot's video thumbnail was not onscreen, but her voice could be heard — were in favor of setting a return date, Bell-Fontenot was opposed to making a decision at the meeting.
While one of the proposals involved giving time for teachers to get vaccinated, at least one board member insisted that waiting wasn't necessary. Bell-Fontenot took issue with the idea of "forcing" teachers to return to classrooms without being vaccinated, which she said "seems like a very white supremacist ideology" and akin to "racism."
Similar to the Oakley school situation, she's seems unaware that the meeting is being recorded. "If our meeting wer… https://t.co/4oaDq5jceN— Jorge Ventura Media (@Jorge Ventura Media) 1614236946.0
Several outlets said Bell-Fontenot did not respond to their requests for comment.
"We don't have to give anybody any date!" Bell-Fontenot hollered at one point. "We don't have to do anything that we don't want to do right now. That's what you don't understand. I don't know where you're getting your information, or who's telling you that we have to make a decision today, but that is not how this works."
When a board member argued that a survey indicated 70% to 80% support for returning to school, Bell-Fontenot replied, "Who are the 70 to 80 percent, and where are they? I would like to know geographically from which school sites, which language groups, and how they conducted this feedback. Where? Please give it to me before I can make a decision. I can't make one. I cannot make one. And I will not make one."
When one individual said Bell-Fontenot could abstain from voting, Bell-Fontenot shot back, "There's no reason to be nasty with me." And again, when it was put to her that she's "welcome" to vote no, Bell-Fontenot replied, "I know what I'm what I'm welcome to do, you guys. I do. And I know that what we're doing is wrong."
Throwing down with the superintendent
Amid the debate, Bell-Fontenot said, "None of you guys even know what you're talking about right now. This seems like a mess. We should not be voting on this tonight. You guys don't have all the information that you need. ... You're speaking from your heart, and that's fine." She added that a decision on a teacher return date should be pushed to the next meeting.
Then Superintendent Feliciano stepped in.
"I take great offense to the statement that no one on here knows what they're talking about right now," he told Bell-Fontenot. "I don't believe that to be the case at all."
"I wasn't talking about you, David," she replied. "I was talking about my fellow board members, especially the new ones."
"I'm not speaking about me, either," Feliciano answered. "I'm talking about your fellow board members."
"They can speak for themselves if they have an issue with me; they can tell me," Bell-Fontenot told the superintendent. "But you don't need to speak for them, David."
"I can speak for them if I choose to," he replied.
It should be noted that while snippets of Bell-Fontenot's arguments at the board meeting appear on the latter videos, a complete audio recording of the meeting can be found here. The relevant portion starts at the one-hour, fifteen-minute mark.
Feliciano also called Bell-Fontenot's words "offensive."
"Don't say you can speak for others, that's not appropriate," Bell-Fontenot told him. "And it's disrespectful. Like this is the second time you've disrespected me, David."
When board President Rebecca McRae tried to move on and get Bell-Fontenot and Feliciano to discuss things in private, Bell-Fontenot hollered, "No, it doesn't need to be private! ... Racism doesn't need to be private, Becky!"
Bell-Fontenot also didn't seem to know the board meetings are recorded for the public, and when she was told they actually are and how to access them, she complained they aren't "easily accessible."
She also asked those at the meeting to "please stop trying to make me seem like I don't know what I'm talking about, and like I'm dumb." Bell-Fontenot added that she was "offended by the smirks on you guys' faces."
Another individual at the meeting said she didn't understand why Bell-Fontenot was "so upset."
Bell-Fontenot replied, "You may not know me, but I'm not upset at all."
The individual, a woman, went further and said, "I'm Hispanic, and I have four adopted children. We look like the U.N. So, that's why when ... you're throwing out the racism, I don't understand that."
In the end, the board voted 4-1 in approval of Feliciano's push to reopen the district's classrooms, KNSD-TV reported, adding that a "hybrid" plan will begin April 19.