The principal of a San Francisco middle school has withheld the results of her school’s student election because the winners weren’t diverse enough for her tastes.
Everett Middle School principal Lena Van Haren refused to implement the results of the school’s October 10 election because there were no Latino or black candidates chosen for the top four spots.
Haren sent an email out to parents expressing her desire for a student council government that represents the school’s ethnic mix, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The school is comprised of 20 percent white students and 80 percent students of color.
“This is complex, but as a parent and a principal, I truly believe it behooves us to be thoughtful about our next steps here so that we can have a diverse student council that is truly representative of all voices at Everett.”
Everett parent Todd David told the San Francisco Chronicle it appeared diversity was more important than democracy and the student’s ability to choose their own leaders.
“My criticism of the Everett administration is their good intention got in the way of their common sense. It’s really, really disturbing to me that withholding the results somehow equals social justice or equity. That is where I totally disconnect. I’m like, ‘Whoa.'”
Parent Bianca Gutierrez told KTVU her 7th grade son was rethinking his run for class representative because of the weirdness around the election process. She said the whole thing discouraged him from ever running again.
“That should have been something [discussed] prior to elections and prior to the campaigning process.”
Principal Haren said she wanted to wait until she could create a new plan that would include a more diverse student council before she announced the results.
Haren told parents she was considering adding new positions to the student council so more students of color could be involved, but that didn’t sit well with parents or students who complained to the school board, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
“The thing that’s so frustrating to me, as a parent and an engaged citizen, is you release the results and then you form committees. How can you say, ‘In the name of social justice, we’re going to withhold election results’?”
The school has gone for years without a student government.
Sebastian Kaplan, who was running for the position of seventh-grade representative, told KRON-TV he just wanted to know if he had won.
“The organizers are saying stuff like, ‘we want everyone’s voice to be heard,’ but then in truth, the voters’ voices aren’t being heard. The whole school voted for those people, so it is not like people rigged the game, but now in a way it is kinda being rigged.”
Feeling the pressure from parents and students along with the school board and district administrators, Haren went from classroom to classroom Monday morning to announce the results of the school’s elections.
White and Asian students won the most seats even though they constitute a minority in the school. African American and Latino students did manage to place in the top 10, but no English learners were elected.
Other parents praised the principal for her courageous stand for diversity saying the fight for equality was a real concern for them and their families. Haren said Monday she still thought the fight for equality was important, but that she should have gone about it differently.
Everett Middle School is in the heart of the Mission District in San Francisco, a neighborhood in the middle of the gentrification fight. Lower class residents who have lived in the area for decades are being displaced by high paid tech workers and landlords using Elis Act eviction rules.
[Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]