In spring of 2018, a group of La Mesa and Spring Valley parents and community members, concerned about the offensive comments of then-LMSV School Board member David Chong, created the non-partisan group Action Community for Educators and Students (ACES). Our mission was simple: to support candidates for the school board who truly cared about the students, teachers, and school staff, and who would promote school as a safe environment for all students. One of the candidates we supported was Chardá Bell-Fontenot, and we continue to stand with her today.
Trustee Bell-Fontenot, a mother, lactation consultant, and longtime school volunteer, was the only member of the school board at the Febr. 23 board meeting to question selecting a date to reopen the schools before the reopen plan was vetted by educators, school staff, and the community. Trustee Bell-Fontenot was the only member of the school board to acknowledge that families who are low-income and non-white are disproportionally affected by COVID. This population also tends to be more hesitant to return to in-person learning, according to the Pew Research Center.
We all want the same thing for our community — schools that are physically and psychologically safe places for children to thrive. But a major part of that equation is ensuring a safe environment for teachers, who may be medically vulnerable themselves or have vulnerable people in their families. The voices of the crowd pushing to reopen are loud, but we have an obligation to listen to the people who are most affected and have the most at stake. We can find solutions together, but only if all voices are heard.
We also stand with Trustee Bell-Fontenot against the tide of racist vitriol and threats she has received, which began prior to the Feb. 23 board meeting. Our community must do better to protect each other. Instead, a group pushing to reopen the schools partnered with conservative talking heads like Carl DeMaio to recall Trustee Bell-Fontenot, which has intensified the vitriol and toxicity directed at her. The school district, school board, and our community must fully, unconditionally, denounce the racist hate towards Trustee Bell-Fontenot, and recognize its obligation to listen to those most affected by the pandemic.
— Emily Green, La Mesa-Spring Valley ACES