On Wednesday, February 17th, an entire school board in charge of the elementary and middle schools in Oakley, California, made a massive mistake — one that would quickly lead to the entire, four-person group of board members resigning in disgrace. But what did they do?
Well, simply put, they didn’t check that they were the only people on their bi-weekly online meeting before they began mocking the parents for *checks notes* wanting to know more information about the district’s plans to get kids back to in-person instruction.
On that day, the board members were hosting their bi-weekly meeting and at the top of the call, didn’t realize that their online meeting had gone live — and spent several minutes complaining about the negative comments they were getting on their work and the parents they were purported to serve.
According to The New York Times, one board member said: “They want to pick on us because they want their babysitters back,” in a sentence that managed to insult both parents and teachers at the same time, suggesting that parents aren’t concerned about their kids’ well-being and educators are simply babysitters.
Another said that his brother, who got his medical marijuana delivered, was a lot like these parents, mocking them. The conversation functionally suggested that the parents who are concerned about their kids simply wanted school to reopen so they could smoke pot during the school day. One said that they would attack a parent physically for her critics, joking.
And then — while people sat in on the meeting, listening to the board members talking smack about them — the members realized the meeting was live.
“We have the meeting open to the public right now,” said the board member who had moments before joked about beating up a concerned community member.
“Nuh-uh,” another person responded. (The reaction would be funny, were the situation not so mortifying and unprofessional and unkind.)
They then closed the meeting to the public for several minutes and, within days, over 7,000 people in Oakley had signed a petition asking the board members to resign.
“Parents were tuned in to learn if we will be sending our kids back to school soon and if not, why,” the petition begins. Instead, obviously, they tuned in to hear the board members mocking them — and their legitimate concerns about school plans.
Obviously, the school board resigned quite quickly and issued apologies for their behavior. Ultimately, hopefully, they learned a lesson in operating online meetings and a far bigger lesson about when, and how, it’s appropriate to vent.