Education Matters: QAnon, replacing Gibson, and the insurrection


Is this really what it’s come to? Labeling people as QAnon believers simply because they want kids back in school?

References have been made to QAnon to characterize school board members, the Parent Association of North County and by extension others supporting full-time in-person instruction.

Marsha Sutton

The term “White supremacists” has also been tossed about.

When did it become acceptable to so disparage those who support the reopening of schools and align them with fringe elements of society?

QAnon, according to Wikipedia, “is a disproven and discredited American far-right conspiracy theory alleging that a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibalistic pedophiles was running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotted against former U.S. president Donald Trump while he was in office. QAnon is commonly called a cult.”

Not only is it incomprehensible to attack supporters of school reopening with malicious, irrational rhetoric, but it undermines the arguments to keep schools closed. How can anyone be taken seriously if they engage in name-calling and ad hominem attacks – the lowest form of debate?

The San Dieguito Union High School District has become one of the targets.

Those opposed to SDUHSD’s decision to reopen schools would be better served to stick with a rational viewpoint, if there is one, rather than trying to associate those who simply want kids back in school with absurd ideology.

School boards are nonpartisan. Three SDUHSD board members just happen to be Republican. They voted to open school to four days a week because they see kids suffering. But they also accepted that some families prefer distance learning, so that is still an option.

How does it follow that they must be embracing some right-wing agenda because they take an opposing view from forces aligned with the teachers union?

The 3-1 vote to open schools for in-person learning, with the option to remain in distance learning, gives everyone a choice and is nothing more than a logical compromise made in the best interests of kids – hardly a cultist conspiracy.

Board appointment

This debate seems to have spilled over into the best way to fill the seat of resigned SDUHSD trustee Kristin Gibson. This and the school opening issue have become a referendum on San Dieguito’s teachers union, the San Dieguito Faculty Association.

In a letter to union members posted on Facebook, SDFA president Duncan Brown said his board opposes a board appointment to replace Gibson. “This feels grossly inappropriate, and as such SDFA will oppose such a move,” he wrote.

SDFA favors holding a special election, which would cost the school district $500,000 or more. This money would come from the general fund – money that could be, should be, spent on student needs.

Gibson’s term expires November 2022, so only 18 months are left before a regular election will be held.

Filling a vacancy this close to a general election is commonly done – and has been by many county school districts and city councils. This is hardly unusual.

Holding a special election would be a waste of precious general fund money. If voters don’t like who the board appoints, they can elect someone else next year.

The vote to appoint was 3-1 – with only trustee Katrina Young opposing a board appointment.

Those like Young against opening schools for four days a week for in-person instruction, with the option to remain in distance learning if preferred, seem to have embraced the union position that the vacancy should be filled by special election.

If you don’t want schools open four days a week, you support a special election. If you do want schools open for in-person instruction, you support a board appointment.

How did this division become so impenetrable? Where’s the common sense?

Teachers unions have done an excellent job of polarizing communities into two strictly separated categories – either with them or against them, with no middle ground.

This is a false dichotomy. People are more complicated than that.

Just as some Republicans support union positions, some Democrats don’t. The irrelevant fact that the SDUHSD board majority happens to be Republican is just that: irrelevant.

Trustees Michael Allman, Melisse Mossy and Mo Muir are using their voices to look after the students under their care, kids suffering from school restrictions that have led so many children to depression and suicidal thoughts. And they’ve listened to those who prefer distance learning by keeping that as an option.

Let’s also applaud their sensible vote to appoint Gibson’s replacement rather than waste taxpayer dollars.

School boards are nonpartisan and each member should operate as such. There is no right-wing or left-wing agenda in public education that’s appropriate. Independent thought should be celebrated, not vilified.

Opposing the insurrection

After the Jan. 6 insurrection at the nation’s Capitol, San Diego County Office of Education board members discussed and passed a resolution “condemning the violent, seditious actions” and “supporting the democratic transfer of power.”

It was resolved that the SDCOE board “vows to honor their oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States [and] condemns the criminal acts of sedition both foreign and domestic, the interference in the free and fair elections and any that would seek to undermine the democracy.”

The resolution was presented by board president Guadalupe Gonzalez and passed 4-1, with trustee Paulette Donnellon opposed.

Although stating that she supported the condemnation of the Capitol insurrection, Donnellon was concerned about setting a precedent and questioned why the board was involving itself in national issues.

“I do condemn what happened,” she said. “But we are walking a fine line here.”

She voted against the resolution, she said, only to indicate that resolutions placed before the board should be reviewed in policy committee first, to ascertain what would be proper.

Board member Rick Shea shared similar concerns, saying the resolution addressed national and political issues and was not related to education. But he ultimately supported it, saying, “It’s hard to argue with it.”

Gonzalez spoke strongly in favor of the resolution, saying she takes her oath of office to defend the Constitution “very seriously.”

“We’re also role models,” said trustee Gregg Robinson. “We have a responsibility to speak out when the basics of democracy are being violated.”

The laudatory adoption of this resolution made me wonder why more school district trustees and other elected officials who serve on governmental bodies didn’t also consider similar resolutions.

Elected officials take the oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and any seditious acts that violate that oath should be denounced forcefully.

Some national issues deserve local attention. Good for SDCOE trustees for setting an excellent example for other elected bodies to follow.

Social and emotional learning

Despite my disappointment with SDCOE’s board for denying the renewal petition for the School of Universal Learning (SOUL) charter school last year, SDCOE recently launched new social and emotional learning (SEL) courses to support student and adult well-being.

Social and emotional learning was a vital component of SOUL’s curriculum. Although SOUL is no longer, SDCOE seems to have taken the issue to heart.

The announcement states that social and emotional learning “isn’t just for school counselors or those who focus on providing behavioral supports for students. It’s essential work that should extend across a school system, including for students and families, for the well-being and success of every stakeholder.”

SEL is being offered April 20, April 27 and May 4 for teachers, school counselors, social workers and parent leaders. Courses are free.

Opinion columnist and education writer Marsha Sutton can be reached at