Power Vacuum...Squid admits that sometimes democracy can get a little messy. Like how they say every vote counts and yet the Electoral College still exists...and now here we are. But at the local level, Squid can see first-hand how loud the room can get when everyone is speaking.
Exhibit A: The Salinas City Elementary School District, where a parent group called Building A Better Board is taking district trustee Kathryn Ramirez to task. BBB, or rather the two men leading it, Frank Garden and Sean Henry, filed a complaint to the district's superintendent and the board president about Ramirez's conduct online and in the board room.
Filed on Aug. 2, Garden and Henry's complaint was 53 pages long and alleges everything from unlawful discrimination to cyberbullying.
Squid thinks the two men may have a point when it comes to online comments. Ramirez did once directly drag Garden on her personal Facebook page, dubbing him #FlunkeeFrank. And Ramirez also probably was pointing to Henry, when she referenced American rapper Big Sean (who is ironically has a slim 5'8 stature) and cleverly rebranded BBB to Big Bad Bullies in a Facebook comment. Henry, of course, thought she was referring to his own stature. Maybe the irony was lost on him?
But perhaps the biggest complaint alleges racism—against them? Maybe.
BBB wants to spotlight Ramirez's comments on interdistrict transfers, alluding that perhaps the reason why they could run into future budgetary problems and an increase in declining enrollment is because of a phenomena called "white flight." It's a term she's referenced more than once in board meetings and online.
It's a jarring and offensive term to hear for, well, white people, Squid realizes. But it's a real thing in some school districts, where more well-connected, better educated (and yes, mostly‚ white) parents leave poorly funded schools to go to better funded schools within miles of each other. This drains the local pool of resources from other schools that typically have more brown and black kids who are socially and economically disadvantage.
So yeah, it's racist, in a sense that white flight reinforces segregated schools. But what white flight isn't is racist against Garden and Henry, who are white-passing men. (Garden is half-Filipino, while Henry is a quarter Mexican. Garden tells Squid's colleague that Ramirez perceives him to be a white man despite his mixed heritage, and Henry says he's usually identified as white because he has blonde hair and blue eyes.)
Because the thing about "racist" policies or "racially charged" policies, as Henry and Garden put it, is that it has to discriminate against people of color—not white people. By definition, racism is different than discrimination because it discriminates solely against someone because of their skin color.
Squid's colleague, Marielle Argueza who reports on K-12 education, has never received a definitive answer as to why SCESD enrollment is declining. For all she and Squid knows, it could be white flight, the high cost of living or the seasonal nature of the migrant farmworker jobs.
Garden and Henry's complaint, first sent to Superintendent Martha Martinez, was forwarded to the Local Education Agency, or LEA, which Martinez said was the proper forum to hear the complaint. On Aug. 22, the LEA sent the men word that the LEA, too, was denying their claim after concluding the actions the complaint alleged are not within the board's control. And on Sept. 3, Garden and Henry sent their complaint up the chain of command, all the way to the state Department of Education, in a letter that also complained that the LEA failed to comply with its legal obligations to thoroughly investigate the original complaints.
Whew, Squid thinks, wiping Squid's brow—that's A LOT of complaining.
Either way, Squid thinks the often-bombastic Ramirez needs a time out to consider how she uses social media. Meanwhile, Henry and Garden should reread a U.S. history book, or at least the chapters that cover the end of slavery to the Civil Rights Movement. They seem to have trouble understanding the definition of racism.