Fight over Lowell High School admissions escalates with threatening video focused on two female school board members

Image via Twitter
By Jay Barmann - Published on October 26, 2020.

Things turned from tense to creepy and frightening in the ongoing argument between the SF Board of Education and prospective parents, students, and others who are upset that Lowell High School is set to switch to lottery admissions in the 2021-2022 academic year. Late last week, two female board members, both women of color, were targeted by a threatening video featuring a hand in a bloody glove burning a piece of paper with their photos on it, both with Nazi symbols on their heads.

"I understand many of my decisions may be ones people disagree with, but there has been a consistent pattern of racist and sexist undertones that we need to highlight and call out," said school board member Gabriela López in a Twitter post in which she shared the video. "We don’t have to agree but when you do this public finger-pointing, it is not safe for women of color and will undermine our leadership which ultimately hurts our ability to serve students and families... When you see the reactions I give to intolerable behavior you’ll understand why."

School board member Alison Colins was also targeted, with a message beneath the photos saying, strangely, "No to Nazism in SFUSD."

As the Chronicle reported Monday, a gathering of around two dozen elected officials gathered for a press conference and "show of force" to denounce the video, including all seven school board members and most of the Board of Supervisors.

"It’s time for San Francisco to rise against the national climate,” said school board member Jenny Lam, per the Chronicle. “We can passionately disagree, but we must never resort to violence."

The threat comes a week after the board took a final vote to switch Lowell over the standard lottery admissions process used by most public high schools in the city — a temporary switch away from the merit-based admissions process based on a lack of test scores and grades from the last semester of the last school year. Some parents have been especially angry at the switch, which threatens to give places at the elite, well respected school to students who perhaps haven't worked as hard as their children have to gain admission. The proposed switch was announced in September, and despite riling many in the community, the school board voted unanimously to approve it.

Lopez tells the Chronicle that the culprit behind the video was one such parent, and that person has since expressed "regret." But nonetheless she has considered filing charges with police. 

"To me, it’s very clear. I don’t know what else a bloodied glove expresses outside of promoting harm toward someone else," she says. "You’re actively burning our photos. There is a whole production that they put together to get this. They printed out our photos. They created these images, they put the glove on, they are burning them. There is this eerie music in the background. There is a lot of thought around a very violent scene."

The school board has said that the lottery will only be used for one year, and siblings of current Lowell students will get priority for admission. But they have hinted that they want to do away with the merit-based admissions system at some point and replace it with something more equitable, given that it has led to less diversity in the student body.

It's ironic, no, that a push for more diversity is met with someone calling you a Nazi? Maybe "Nazi" does not mean what they think it means?

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