A student government election at a San Francisco middle school had its results ignored after a principal decided the candidates elected were too white.
Elections were held at Everett Middle School Oct. 10, but on Oct. 14 principal Lena Van Haren sent an email to parents saying the results were being ignored, without being made public, because those elected did not reflect how diverse the school is. While Everett is more than 80 percent non-white, Van Haren said the election results “weren’t representative” of that.
“That is concerning to me because as principal I want to make sure the voices are all heard, from all backgrounds,” Van Haren told local KTVU News.
But at least one of the middle schoolers who ran is calling Van Haren out for her rhetoric.
“The organizers are saying things like, ‘we want everyone’s voice to be heard,’ but in truth, the voters’ voices are not being heard,” seventh grader Sebastian Kaplan told KRON, another local news station. “The whole school voted for those people, so it is not like people rigged the game, but in a way, now it is kinda being rigged.”
Van Haren went on to say that she is considering a variety of fixes to the problem, including appointing several new positions in order to ensure more minorities are represented without kicking out those who actually won the election.
“We’re not nullifying the election, we’re not canceling the election, we’re not saying this didn’t count,” she continued.
According to KTVU, Van Haren wants this to be a “learning experience” for those involved. But at a glance, it’s not clear what the lesson is, beyond telling kids their vote doesn’t fully count if they don’t vote for the right skin colors.
Update, 11:47 p.m.: According to UCLA professor Eugene Volokh, blogging at The Washington Post, Van Haren has partly changed course due to the backlash.
“When we reviewed the results of our Associated Student Body (ASB) elections on Friday, October 9th, we saw that it was not fully representative of our school population,” Van Haren said in a statement. “I made the decision to pause on sharing the results with the students in order to capitalize on a teachable moment. I wanted to have a conversation with all of the candidates and ask for their ideas to make sure that all voices and groups are represented in our ASB. In retrospect, I understand how this decision to pause created concerns. Today I visited classrooms to announce the winners of the elections.”
While Van Haren has announced the election’s winners, it’s not clear whether she still hopes to modify the student government’s make-up to ensure more minorities are present.
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