Dozens of community members and others packed the Woodland School District administrative building on Wednesday, June 28 to voice their public comments over a trustee’s controversial LGBTQI+ comment. (Courtesy)
Earlier this week, Woodland Joint Unified School District officials and administrators were inundated with over an hour of voicemail and in-person public comments, with the vast majority in response to a controversial statement read aloud by a Board of Trustees member two weeks ago.
Dozens of Woodland and other area residents packed into the Woodland School District’s administrative building located at 435 Sixth St. for a regularly scheduled board meeting on Wednesday to voice their opinions over Area Two trustee Emily MacDonald’s comments.
Following a unanimous trustee vote approving a resolution adopting June as LGBTQI+ Pride Month during the Thursday, June 15, regularly scheduled school board meeting, MacDonald read aloud a statement that was considered by many community members hateful to LGBTQIA+ youth.
“For a long period of American history, lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans have been grouped together with transgender Americans, and while I share with everyone here enormous respect for the achievements and contributions of Americans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, this coalition forces acceptance of every aspect of transgenderism in order to be considered an ally of the others and that is wrong,” MacDonald began.
“The political needs and aims of these groups have always been divergent. Women who love women have little in common with women who wish to have a mastectomy, take testosterone, and live as men. Men who love men have little in common with men who wish to take estrogen and live as women… Transgender identification has more than doubled in five years, particularly among teenage girls, who were one of the least likely demographics to identify as transgender until the last few years when it became the largest demographic to do so by a large margin. The increase has been so massive that it defies any reasonable explanation at least some degree of social contagion.
…We must act with great caution in order to protect the increasing numbers of children who are experiencing transgender procedures as a result of social contagion without sacrificing the tiny number of individuals who identify as transgender even without social contagion, education campaigns and the social cache attached to a transgender identity in the present. Thank you.”.
Immediately after, Board President Rogelio Villagrana stated that the individual comments of a board member are just that of an individual.
“As individual trustees, of course, we have the right to say what we feel based on whatever our views are, but an individual does not speak for the board,” Villagrana said two weeks ago. “The resolution speaks for that. I stand here as an ally as well to all young people in our district and advocate and support for all young people. It’s our responsibility to create the safest possible space. Is it perfect? Absolutely not… We are working towards that and making a difference.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, there were 13 voicemails and 18 in-person public comments, with all but one about MacDonald’s statement.
Trustees voted once to allow the time limit on a specific topic to exceed the half-hour mark before voting again near the end of the hour to extend the time another nine minutes to have all the comments on hand read aloud or played. The comments alternated between voicemail and in-person.
In total, 24 of the public comments were in support of the LGBTQ+ community and condemned what MacDonald said, while 11 were in support of the comments and a trustee’s right to speak freely. Some comments against MacDonald called for a censure or a straight-up resignation, while those supporting her focused on her first amendment rights.
MacDonald, who was not present Wednesday night, apologized for her absence in an email to WJUSD Superintendent Elodia Ortega-Lampkin, citing work-related busyness.
Stacey Mounce, a teacher in the Woodland School District for nearly 30 years, was one of the first to speak during public comment.
“During my tenure, I have seen a lot of hateful things at school, in our community and in society,” Mounce read. “The hate and vitriol spoken by trustee MacDonald at the last board meeting was icing on the cake. On an evening when our district was purportedly supporting Pride Month and our LGBTQ+ students, you used your platform as a ‘leader’ to denigrate and create an unsafe environment for members of our community. You should be ashamed of yourself, and the rest of you ‘leaders’ who sat silently by ought to be ashamed as well.
“It’s not enough for you to have said, ‘She doesn’t speak for us,’ it’s not enough to say, ‘I don’t agree,’ it’s not enough to just shake your head. What you should have done was loudly stomp your feet and say, “No! You are welcomed here and we will all create a safe space for all students.’”
After citing statistics about LGBTQ+ youth suicide rates and mental health issues, Mounce ended her public comment.
“Being different is hard, but it’s who we are,” Mounce said. “Seeing the statistics and recognizing the daily struggle just to live should serve as a wake-up call. We all should be striving to provide our LGBTQ+ youth a safe place to come and learn and be productive. School might be the only place these kids feel love and acceptance for who they are. Shame on you for using your public position to threaten their safety. We as a community of teachers and parents will not stand for it.”
Villagrana stated during the meeting that any potential censure of MacDonald has neither been discussed nor scheduled by trustees or school administrators.
Near the end of the hour mark, a “longtime Davis resident” came up with words in support of MacDonald.
“The tone and trust tonight, it seems like a lot of people are very emotional,” her comment began. “They’re talking about we need to feel valued or safe. I thought the role of trustees were to ensure education for students and that would be pretty much, in my day, the three R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic. Especially now after COVID when many students would’ve fallen behind. It seems like you should focus on that to be sure they’re ready for their careers or whatever they would want to do. But instead, all this time has been taken up by having a safe space or making them thrive, I don’t know what. I don’t hear anything about actually the role of the three R’s, especially after COVID.
“It turns out what I wish you guys would do, I don’t know if you do it anymore, do you teach the Constitution at all? They’re supposed to be in high school. I learned about it a lot, it was very interesting to me. I wish you would teach it because we have the first amendment rights and the Constitution overrides the law of the land and any regulations you have or state laws. Just because trustee MacDonald might’ve spoken against your regulations, she has the first amendment right from the Constitution. Also, do you guys want a closed system? Do you want just an echo chamber? Sometimes the worst decisions come because there is no voice saying, ‘No, that’s a bad idea, I have a different way of doing it.’ Don’t you want to rethink the way that you approach things by having somebody with a different point of view… I don’t know much about transgender stuff, I just want regular teaching for students through the age of 18, and then they can figure out what they want. Any kind of surgery, or hormones, at the time that they are 18.”
Following public comment, Villagrana mentioned that the board will take up a new resolution during their next meeting on July 27, looking for affirmative steps and actions that district administrators can and need to do to continue supporting those in the LGBTQI+ community.
“One of the things that happen when people make statements is it allows us to accelerate some of the things we wanted to do for a long time that sometimes the community is not ready for, but we can definitely do things to show our support for all of our young people,” Villagrana said.
According to Villagrana, a draft will be brought forward for the board to consider, which can be amended, modified and changed.
“As your superintendent, I am committing to continuing to work with you to ensure a safe space and welcoming environment for all of our staff and students and respecting the diversity of our community as instructed in your board policies vision and direction,” Ortega-Lampkin said during her superintendent report minutes later. “I also especially want to say to our students that we embrace you, each of you, just the way that you are.
“I want each of you to be happy, proud and to know that you are safe to learn and grow in each of our schools.”