Alameda Unified School District board recall, Alameda County, California, 2010
The recall effort was led by a group called S.E.R.V.E. Alameda. It was directed against three of five of the AUSD school board members: Tracy Jensen, Niel Tam and Ron Mooney. The group reported in December 2009, "We have teams currently working hard towards getting the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot."
The reason given for launching the recall effort was an anti-bullying curriculum that Jensen, Tam and Mooney voted to adopt. The curriculum includes nine lesson plans. One of the lesson plans, "Lesson 9," focuses on anti-gay bullying. Those who supported the recall effort were upset that none of the lesson plans focus on race, ethnicity, gender, disability, nationality or religion.
Anti-bullying recommendations offered by district superintendent Kirsten Vital in December 2009 include the recommendation to "Teach Lesson 9 as adopted by the Board of Education until we adopt literature lists for all six protected classes." The decision to eventually phase out "Lesson 9" was characterized as "blinking" in the face of the recall effort.
AUSD is in Alameda County, California. The district serves about 10,000 students. The district is currently being sued over Alameda Unified School District parcel tax, Measure H (June 2008).
Responses by recall targets
Recall targets are allowed to provide written responses to the list of grievances laid out on recall petitions by recall organizers. Some of the written responses provided by the recall targets were:
- Tracy Jensen: "Sixty-two percent of Alameda teachers asked the school board to give them curriculum to teach students to respect others...The school board voted to make schools safer by adopting an anti-bullying curriculum that was approved by the California Department of Education.."
- Neil Tam: "As a member of the Alameda Unified School District school board, it is my responsibility to think about the good of our children, teachers and parents. Providing a safe inclusive school environment is a top priority."
- Ron Mooney: "Simply put, proponents of the recall have their facts wrong...Based on feedback I received, my vote represents the will of the majority of our families and residents — not the opinion of a small, vocal group" and that his vote made "...sure our schools are inclusive and safe for all children and families. I voted to support our teachers and administration, and to provide the tools they need to educate our youth."
Opponents of the recall organized into a group called "No on Alameda Recall Campaign."
Path to the ballot
8,447 signatures, or 20% of Alameda voters, would have to have been obtained on three separate recall petitions by December 12, 2009 in order for recall organizers to force a recall election on each of their three targets.
The Webster Street Jam in Alameda on September 12, an annual street festival, included tables manned by supporters and opponents of the recall. Recall supporters were collecting signatures on the recall petitions, and recall opponents were asking people not to sign the petition and, in the case of those who had already signed it, asking people to remove their signatures.
According to reports, a special recall election would have cost approximately $500,000.
"Lesson 9" lawsuit
Some parents who objected to the "Lesson 9" curriculum went to court so they could withdraw their children from the controversial "Lesson 9" classes. In order for that to happen, the anti-bullying lesson plan would have to be defined as health education, since in California, parents are allowed to withdraw their children from health education classes if their religious beliefs conflict with the content of a particular health education lesson plan. But, on November 25, Alameda County Superior Court judge Frank Roesch issued a temporary ruling in which he said that "Lesson 9" cannot reasonably be construed as "health education," which means that parents cannot withdraw their children from classes that teach this material.
- San Francisco Chronicle, "S.E.R.V.E. ends recall effort," December 29, 2009
- School board recall threatened, August 9, 2009
- Mercury News, "Three school board trustees face recall," August 13, 2009
- California Catholic Daily, "“Insinuating they are bigots”, December 7, 2009
- San Francisco Chronicle, "Total Recall," August 10, 2009
- San Francisco Chronicle, "New Anti-Bullying Recommendations Include Lesson 9," December 7, 2009
- Associated Press, "Bay schools phase out gay-friendly curriculum," December 10, 2009
- Alameda Sun, "School Board Recall Moving Forward," August 27, 2009
- Alameda Sun, "Webster Jam Turns Part Signature-Fest," September 17, 2009
- Alameda Education Foundation, "THE RECALL Updated September 2009," October 13, 2009
- Alameda Sun, "Judge's Ruling Favors AUSD on Recall," December 3, 2009