The entire school board of an elementary school in California has resigned after making negative comments about parents in a Zoom meeting they didn’t realize was open to the public.
According to parents, details for an Oakley Union Elementary School District board of trustees meeting were provided on the board’s website, including a login to access the content. Members of the board appeared to be prepping for the meeting—not realizing they had already started broadcasting.
A recording of the meeting later uploaded to YouTube first took a turn towards anti-parent sentiments when Superintendent Gregory Hetrick brought up the idea of implementing an automatic system that limited parental comments in meetings to three minutes, which the other members were enthusiastic about.
From there, the board members lamented that parents “forget that there’s real people on the other side of those letters that they’re writing,” made profane statements, and suggested that parents’ frustration with school COVID closures are because “they want their babysitters back” and wanted to sit around smoking marijuana while the kids are at school.
Eventually, one of them received a message from someone watching. “Uh oh,” she said. “We have the meeting open to the public right now.”
“Great,” another board member said as the screen finally cut out.
The incident shocked parents, many of whom are struggling with the realities of virtual learning for their young kids during the pandemic.
"They see us writing letters monthly, weekly, to the board members, detailing our stresses and grief about distance learning," Ashley Stalf, whose child attends Oakley Union, told the local ABC station. "For them to say we are doing nothing and sitting home and smoking pot is far from the truth.”
Tensions between parents and school boards during this time have been rough throughout the country, as everyone is torn on how best to serve the needs of parents, faculty, and students while also keeping everyone safe. But there’s little question that disparaging parents was the wrong approach to take — even if the school board didn’t realize their meeting was being broadcast to the public.
Calls for their resignation began immediately after the video swept across the internet, and by Friday, they had been heeded.
“This was a difficult decision, but we hear the community's concerns, and we believe yielding to your request that we step down will allow the District to move forward,” read a joint statement from all four members.
“Please do not let our failure in judgement cast a shadow on the exceptional work that our teachers, administrators and hard-working employees are doing for the students of this District. They deserve and will need your support as you move forward.”