During a public comment period Tuesday night at the San Francisco school board’s regular meeting, six parents voiced their opposition to the teachers’ union vote in May endorsing the boycott-Israel movement and one said they supported it.
On May 19, the United Educators of San Francisco became the country’s first K-12 public school union to endorse BDS. The resolution passed by a 4-1 margin of the voting assembly, made up of union representatives from district schools. Then, on June 2, the union’s highest decision-making body passed a separate resolution condemning antisemitism after blowback from some in the Jewish community. (The second resolution did not replace the first.)
While the union and the seven-member SFUSD board are different entities — and the board hasn’t made a public statement about the union’s BDS vote — the public comment period was one of the few opportunities for parents to make their voices heard about the union’s recent decision.
One parent, Naomi Laguana, chair of the Parent Advisory Council, a body created by the district’s board that offers a family perspective on matters, pleaded in a tearful comment that the union should “stay in your lane. … Please don’t get involved in the conflict in the Middle East.”
She asked the SFUSD board to “shut this down” so that there isn’t yet more conflict during an already tumultuous year, with a board recall effort and heated debate over reopening schools.
I don’t expect the union to be experts on the Middle East peace process. I do expect them to create inclusive learning environments.
Another parent, Amanda Kahn Fried, said she was “dismayed” by the union’s resolution.
“I want our schools to be a safe place for all children, including my children,” she said. “I don’t expect the union to be experts on the Middle East peace process. I do expect them to create inclusive learning environments. I’d like to see more resolutions about increasing teacher pay and benefits, the science of literacy, a full return to in-person learning and less about international, political conflicts.”
However, one Jewish parent, identifying herself as Julie, said she doesn’t see the UESF resolution as something that makes her kids less safe, a concern that some Jewish parents have shared. Moreover, “claiming criticism of Israel is antisemitic makes it harder for us to root out anti-Jewish hatred and makes none of us safer,” she said.
Board president Gabriela Lopez did not respond to a J. email this morning inquiring about the union’s BDS resolution and the parents’ concerns. A spokesperson for the district also did not respond to a request for comment.
On May 19, the same day that the S.F. union approved the BDs resolution, several union chapters representing teachers in Los Angeles approved motions declaring solidarity with the Palestinians, endorsing BDS and calling for ending aid to Israel. The matter now moves to the decision-making body in the United Teachers Los Angeles, which will vote on the resolution in September.
On June 1, the UTLA released its official position, emphasizing that motions discussed at the chapter level “are not the official expressed opinions of UTLA or its elected leaders.” It also noted that “Debate and disagreement are essential to democracy and to our union, even when there are deep, conflicting emotions on both sides.”