The Examiner U-46 News Feed
Dueling petitions meet at U-46 Board meeting
By Seth Hancock
The supporters and detractors of School District U-46 Board of Education member Jeanette Ward had their say during public comments at the board meeting on Monday, May 16.
As previously reported by The Examiner, a group of students started a change.org petition asking Ward to resign from the board for “her views on minorities, the LGBTQ community, and public education as a whole” as well as for denying global warming as scientific fact and denying discrimination among other things. Also reported was that many of the contentions, such as denying discrimination, were baseless and unfounded as Ward had not said them.
In response, a group supporting Ward put out a counter petition. At the meeting, 16 public comments were made regarding the issue, 10 in support of Ward.
Glen Ellyn resident Jay Kinzler concluded the public comments supporting Ward as courageous for sticking by her beliefs, but he also lauded her detractors for exercising their First Amendment rights.
“It took a lot of guts to come up here and talk,” Kinzler said.
Although there was harsh rhetoric from both sides, those calling for respect of differing opinions only came from those supporting Ward.
The author of the petition asking for Ward to resign was Brendon Culloton, a South Elgin High School junior.
“We want education to be apolitical,” Culloton said. “We don’t want partisan political groups sitting at the table deciding our education.”
Culloton, among others, attempted to claim victim status of their First Amendment rights being violated because Ward defended herself. Despite Culloton initiating this petition, he complained that Ward was interviewed by radio talk shows.
Along with simply defending herself, Ward has also asserted the right of her detractors to speak. For that, South Elgin junior Fernando Ariza called it “an attempt to demoralize us.”
“A good number of those supporters (of the counter petition) do not reside in the district,” Ariza said. “This out of district support is a flexing of muscle and an attempt to stop our voices from being heard.”
While many of those who signed the counter petition were not from U-46, the same is true for the petition asking Ward to resign. There are at least seven other states represented on the anti-Ward petition, as well as two from other countries, one from New Zealand and another from Slovenia.
Joseph Strom, a Larkin junior, said “our youth does not invalidate our Constitutional rights” and Ivana Bozic, a Bartlett junior, said “freedom of speech is not the same as freedom from criticism” in opposition to Ward.
One recent controversial vote from Ward was a no vote on social studies resources which she said were one-sided. She said she wants resources to present all sides.
Culloton said that wanting all sides to be presented is “indoctrination through ignorance” despite the fact that calling for one-sided resources would, by definition, leave one ignorant of other points of view.
The opposition to Ward claimed she is breaking the district’s code of conduct by not representing “all constituencies equally.”
In support of Ward, Bartlett resident Mike Mascow pointed to the students opposing Ward because of her beliefs as evidence that those students are being indoctrinated.
“If the education that these students received is so imbalanced that they have not been presented with opposing facts regarding the theory of global warming, American history that discusses the good and imperfect aspects of our nation along with a myriad of other topics believing those that disagree should be silent, then we would say that they are the ones being indoctrinated into ignorance,” Mascow said.
Kevin Wiley, a West Chicago resident and Colonel in the US Army Reserve, said: “We have processes. Shaming people, talking bad, lying about people and belittling people is not the way to get your point across and it’s usually used by those who have a weak argument across the board.”
Wiley added: “We need people to pressure the status quo. We need people who are going to ask tough questions.”
Jason Castro and Wendell Cattron, both of Elgin, said they know Ward and Castro said she is seeking “the best education for the tax dollars spent” and Cattron that “she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.”
Brock Friedman, a Hanover Park resident who said he’s sworn an oath to the Constitution twice, said the petition asking for Ward’s resignation is an “attack on our country and our Constitution” and those students are “dangerously naïve.” He said they have the right to speak “but what you cannot do is form a mob and demand her removal.”
Richard Francke of Bartlett said: “Let’s stop the name calling and the bullying and act like adults. Enough is enough.”
Wayne resident Rick Newton said: “While many members of the board, faculty and administration are proponents of belief systems grounded in entitlements and seeking to have students and parents see themselves as victims of others beliefs and actions, there’s a large portion of the American society that truly believes in taking ownership of their lives.”
Newton added that there are those who “strongly prefer self determination over government and bureaucrats who thrive on controlling people and wasting the tax dollars of others. They believe in individualism, not collectivism. In freedom, not dependency.”
Newton also said one cannot blame the students for wanting to suppress views they don’t agree with based on the example set by many adults in the district. He noted board member Traci Ellis attacking Ward as offensive, shortsighted, narrow-minded, arrogant and bigoted at the May 9 meeting, something Ellis later responded to saying “I 100 percent own and stand behind” that and then called Ward’s beliefs “racist.”
As one of Ward’s supporters, Vietnam veteran Art Ellingsen, spoke some supposed adults counted down the clock and laughed at him for his comments, the students also laughing. Donna Smith, the board’s president, did “ask the audience to refrain from commenting.”
Those same “adults” groaned when Ward spoke during board member updates about her attendance at Connie-a-Thon, a fundraiser for families in need held by Larkin students.
Along with giving her appreciation for the efforts at Connie-a-Thon, Ward offered her appreciation to all those who spoke, pro and con, and said: “I too would like to see education be apolitical, but sadly it’s not and that’s why I speak out and why I will continue to speak out until my term ends in 2019.”
Ellis decided again to attack Ward and claim herself as a victim and said she was “struck by… the invoking of the Constitution” and claimed the First Amendment does not apply to board members.
“You can try to cloak hate speech around the First Amendment rights if you’d like” Ellis said along with claiming there were calls for her resignation.
“I never heard that I was being courageous for standing alone,” Ellis said. “In fact, the same board member who was the subject of tonight was one of the very people attacking me before being elected. Somehow or another free speech didn’t apply to me.”
The facts seem to contradict Ellis’ claims as she has not faced any public calls to resign, and her claim of “standing alone” comes despite the fact she consistently votes with the majority.
Ward did make public comments at meetings before being elected, but not once did it appear she personally attacked Ellis. In contrast, Ellis called Ward “unenlightened” and “flawed” back in 2013 for Ward saying “hiring, like justice, should be blind.”