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Closed meeting by Sunol Glen School District raises concerns after "special interests" flag vote

Sunol Glen School Board to hold closed session amid flag-ban controversy
Sunol Glen School Board to hold closed session amid flag-ban controversy 00:33

SUNOL -- In the East Bay, a special school board meeting is scheduled for the Sunol Glen School District Tuesday afternoon.

A week ago, the board had a heated debate over banning so-called "special interest" flags. The board voted in favor of the ban with two board members voting yes and one voting no.

Opponents of the ban said the move was in response to a rainbow pride flag being flown at the school in June during Pride Month.

At Tuesday's closed session, one of the topics the school board is expected to discuss is the future of the current Superintendent Molly Barnes, who spoke up during last week's meeting in support of LGTBQ+ families, students and staff.

Some fear the board may want to get rid of her because of those comments. 

Activist group Castro Valley Pride issued the following statement in response to a special meeting "where it is expected that retaliatory efforts will be taken against Superintendent Molly Barnes." 

"On September 12th, Superintendent Molly stood up for LGBTQ families, students and staff. She was brave - in a way that we've not seen in our 14 years of advocacy work across our county. She stood before a board who just weeks before was considering a mandatory outing policy for trans youth, and before a board who has a 2-1 ultra conservative majority. She spoke about equality and equity and provided the historical background of the first pride flag to be flown at Sunol Glen in 2021 at Castro Valley Pride's request. She did her job and she did it well," said Castro Valley Pride President Austin Bruckner Carrillo  Bruckner Carrillo. "In a world full of Ryans and Lindas, we need more Superintendent Molly." 

The release sent out by Castro Valley Pride noted that there were "unconfirmed rumors" circulating Board President Ryan Jergensen sent an email that excludes the remote participation of trustee Peter Romo at the Wednesday meeting. Romo is currently out of the country and is considered the only LGBTQ friendly member of the Sunol Glen School Board.

The president of the Sunol Glen School Board, Ryan Jergensen, was the main backer of the new policy to limit flags at the school. He refused to talk with KPIX on Wednesday, but in a statement released last week said, "Schools need to be a place of inclusion, where all students are safe. My concern is that when a school starts endorsing any particular view that can be divisive, then the school is failing its mission... The District should not be seen as endorsing one view over another."

At Wednesday's meeting, Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Alysse Castro was the first speaker during public comment.

"There's some outstanding questions about whether this meeting is legal at all, I'm not going to weigh in on those, but the intent of emergency session, the intent of calling 24 hours is that there is a crisis. We're having a hard time finding that crisis," said Castro during her public comment.

On Wednesday, parents showed up in force to raise concerns about the direction the school board is going.

One in attendance was Erin Choin, whose three children are enrolled at Sunol Glen. She worries that two members of the school board are more interested bringing politics into the school district instead of focusing on what's in the best interest of the students.

"As much attention as we're getting for this, this is not really how Sunol operates. This is a very vocal and honestly very power hungry small minority of people who are trying to push what they want into our school," says Choin.

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