Of late I have noticed a concerning practice of proliferating and amplifying false rhetoric. Therefore as a SDUHSD board member, I feel compelled to address the misinformation about my resolution (“The Governing Board’s Response to Hate Speech”) that appeared on the October meeting agenda.
Some members of the community have called it illegal. At least one did so while also admitting that they had not even read it. The truth is that I took great pains to ensure that nothing in the resolution sought to chill, silence or violate free speech.
Vetted by lawyers, it advocated for civility and honored procedures already in place; procedures that have somehow recently gotten lost. Per our by-laws, board members may briefly respond to statements made during public comments. This and other aspects of the resolution robustly defends free speech. In fact, its first actionable paragraph clearly affirms “the sanctity of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment rights.”
More than a legal imperative, freedom of expression is also morally necessary. Good solutions come from multiple, and often dissenting, perspectives. But first we must commit ourselves to disagreeing in a productive fashion. In addition to hate speech inside the boardroom, our district has suffered from an onslaught of inappropriate posts, comments, texts, emojis and emails. At their core, they seep valuable resources and time away from our mission to educate and support all students.
I am proud of this resolution. And remain grateful for the support of my fellow board member, Trustee Bronstein, who also agrees with the final paragraph: “We act as responsible members of a shared community when we engage as empathetic speakers and generous listeners.”
More importantly, we all act as responsive leaders when we encourage others to communicate with a genuine desire to empathize, respect and understand one another. As an agency of public education, we cannot censor others by picking and choosing what we deem acceptable, but we can gently remind our community to censor or govern themselves.
In many ways, the kindergarten adage of the “Golden Rule” applies in the most profound ways inside the boardroom and across all corners of our community. As board members, we are elected to listen to all voices, even if and especially when they disagree with us. My hope is for others to do the same.
Katrina Young is the Area 2 Trustee on the San Dieguito Union High School District board.