Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 14, 2017


Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

In preparation for the Pride proclamation rejection post, I feel like I need to provide some context for people who weren’t around during the time, weren’t necessarily following School District specific issues, or just have forgotten.  Let me take you back to the controversy around Lesson 9.

Lesson 9 started off fairly simply, it was an anti-bullying lesson centered around — essentially — that LGBTQ members existed in the world and that it’s wrong to bully kids who identify as LGBTQ or kids who have family members who identify as LGBTQ.

Here’s a few background of the early information around the topic:

  1. April 17, 2009
  2. April 28, 2009
  3. May 11, 2009
  4. May 12, 2009
  5. Roundup from Mike McMahon’s website

Specific to Trish Spencer, here is a list of her votes from a heavily circulated Facebook post in 2012 that was memorialized in this post:

With respect to my friends who support Trish Spencer for School Board (or are friends with her), I’d like to clarify her record on our district’s anti-bullying campaign. Ms. Spencer is saying today that she voted “yes” on the more inclusive anti-bullying curriculum developed in the fall of 2009. Technically this was true, for about a half hour. Here is the full record of her votes on our anti-bullying curricula:

1. Ms. Spencer voted “no” on Lesson 9 (aimed at children of gay families) on 5/26/09.

2. After a community advisory group and a teachers’ group developed a new, more expansive program (covering children in all six legally protected classes), she voted “yes” on it, briefly, at the 12/08/09 Board of Ed meeting.

3. About a half hour later, when she learned that Lesson 9 was still included in the program (because the board was going to implement the curriculum in stages), she voted “no” on the curriculum. (Her final vote, in other words, was a “no.”)

4. On April 13, 2010, she also voted “no” on the recommended list of literature for the newly expanded anti-bullying program.

So of the four total votes on the district’s anti-bullying curricula, Ms. Spencer voted “no” three times and reversed her sole “yes” vote within an hour.

So let’s go back to the first “no” vote on May 26, 2009. This is how I captured the discussion in 2009 the day after:

Trish Spencer was the mouthpiece for every kitchen sink opposition question that has been thrown at this curriculum, a clear vote against.

So here’s the argument that I had the most difficulty with and I’ve been fixated on it since last night.   I don’t know if Trish Spencer necessarily believed this or if she was — as mentioned — throwing the kitchen sink at the anti-bullying curriculum to see which would knock it over successfully.   One of her arguments was that one of the books, I believe it was That’s a Family, but not 100% sure about that  Who’s in a Family and the way that they presented the families they relied on that often used device of depicting human like behavior in animals.

Trish Spencer noted that it might be considered offensive to bi-racial families that they were mocked up as dogs in the books.   Well when you put it that way, yeah, it sounds a little bad, but contextually, what were other families depicted as?  Cats?  Monkeys?  Tigers?  Pigs?   Seriously though, if she is going to have issues with humans depicted as animals or animals exhibiting human like behavior that would literally wipe out a substantial majority of children’s books.   And Disney films.  And cartoons.  And classic stories.

Another argument offered by Trish Spencer was the because And Tango Makes Three was on the list of most challenged books that it should be replaced by a different book.  I was dumbstruck by this argument and had to, once again, try to figure out if she actualy believed this or if she was kitchen sinking it.   While she is absolutely correct that And Tango Makes Three has topped the list of most challenged books in 2006, 2007, and 2008 if we are then to use the criteria that any book that ends up on a most challenged books list must be removed from our children’s sights, then these books must also go: [list of books in the original post, click link to that post above if you want to see]

For the December 2009 meeting where Trish Spencer voted “yes” for one hot second and has been riding that mistaken vote as her allyship, from a November 2012 post where I finally was able to get video and upload it from the December 2009 meeting, her second vote, the “no” vote was the most meaningful because it was a direct vote against retaining Lesson 9 in the interim until the new curriculum was adopted:

Anyway, here’s the video, this is after the first motion and vote.   The first motion was made by Mike McMahon and everyone voted for this with the exception of Tracy Jensen.   While the rest of the Board was attempting to figure out what to do about the remainder of the recommendations from the Superintendent and whether the motion covered those recommendations, Trish Spencer felt as though they should “move on” and that the matter had been dispensed with.   She eventually voted against the motion made by Tracy Jensen after multiple restatements and clarifications of the scope of Tracy Jensen’s motion.   In uncharacteristic Trish Spencer style, for this motion, she absolutely did not want any discussion on the issue instead insisting that there was something untoward about multiple motions on a given agenda item.   Rather than clarify why she voted against Lesson 9 this time around, she simply voted no instead of giving the reason she is now giving.

And finally the vote in April 2010 which was a vote against the anti-bullying book list, from that same November 2012 post:

And finally, here is video of the April 2010 meeting, which Trish Spencer has indicated that she voted against because members of “protected classes” expressed concern about how they and their children were depicted.   Reading that, one would assume that she was upset about books about people with disabilities and such, but the main thing that Trish Spencer honed in on was whether or not there were enough representations of “traditional” roles for boys and girls.   Such as one story about a little girl who likes fire trucks might wipe away all the representations of tea parties, dolls, and princesses that have inundated our culture and little girls might feel ashamed of liking those “traditional” girl pursuits.

Then she is concerned about a story of a princess who turns the prince saving the princess meme on its head because at the end the princess has the gall to call the prince a “bum.”   Clutch the pearls!   Of course she failed to mention that one, the book was written in 1980, so perhaps the language is not as “soft” as we would prefer it today for books meant to teach some lesson.   And two, that it was a response to the prince asking her to conform to societal “norms” that he felt she should conform to.

So in both instances, the major concern expressed by Trish Spencer was not about “protected classes” but rather ensuring that the presentation of two books didn’t interfere with traditional gender roles.   In the end, even though this book list was meant to do what Trish Spencer said that she wanted to do, represent all protected classes, she voted against it.

In other assorted Lesson 9 Trish Spencer related posts:

Here she is asking for restatement after restatement of the same question over and over again, with video in August regarding the expanded curriculum that would fold in Lesson 9 and other protected classes. This is also the meeting where she hints that she wants Lesson 9 suspended until the expanded curriculum is developed which she then later voted against in April.

Let’s not forget that Trish Spencer was invited to KQED’s Forum as the Board member who did not support Lesson 9 and wanted to suspend it in December after the vote she touts as “support.”  Tracy Jensen was the Board member invited who reflected the polar opposite of Trish Spencer.

Three more posts that round up information about this topic, it sort of overlaps the information provided already, but is a good (shorter) overview.

  1. August 31, 2012 — Candidate profile
  2. September 7, 2012 — Union endorsement push at county Democratic club
  3. October 23, 2012 — Contradiction of Trish Spencer’s rationale for her April 2010 “no” vote on book list via comments from opponents

Here are some of the pieces that explain why people were — and still are hurt — by the vote and position taken by Trish Spencer.

  1. June 10, 2009 — Capitol Resource Institute press release
  2. June 22, 2009 — LA Times editorial
  3. August 10, 2009 — Recall of School Board members who voted for Lesson 9
  4. August 11, 2009 — More recall
  5. August 13, 2009 — Lawsuit against AUSD
  6. August 14, 2009 – Pacific Justice Institute lawsuit
  7. August 19, 2009 — Response from first School Board member subject to recall attempt
  8. August 19, 2009 – Response from second School Board member subject to recall attempt
  9. August 20, 2009 – Response from third School Board member subject to recall attempt
  10. September 1, 2009 – SERVE Alameda town hall
  11. December 7, 2009 — SERVE’s real objections
  12. April 13, 2010 — Controversy over booklist
  13. October 29, 2010 — School Board candidate contradictions


  1. Do you get paid double for repeats?

    Comment by jack — June 14, 2017 @ 7:23 am

  2. In the last election, Spencer got off very lightly as there was no discernable opposing campaign. I trust this will not happen again. There’s plenty of material.

    Comment by BC — June 14, 2017 @ 9:31 am

  3. Despite such a hostile record against the LGBTQ community, didn’t Trish Spencer get the endorsement of the Alameda County Democratic Party at the urging of Gray Harris, who was president of the Alameda teacher’s union?

    Comment by Alan — June 14, 2017 @ 11:17 am

  4. Given recent events, I think it’s time to turn down the rhetoric. The issue has been settled and Pride Month should be celebrated instead of used for political leverage.

    What’s up with the demand to apologize? This is a challenging issue and not everyone agrees. I remember President Obama changing his mind about gay marriage in 2008 and not having to “apologize” for his previous stance.

    Comment by Nowyouknow — June 14, 2017 @ 11:43 am

    • Has she changed her mind about her previous stance? We don’t know because she’s never answered the question or….apologized.

      Comment by Lauren Do — June 14, 2017 @ 12:45 pm

      • I doubt that whether or not Trish apologizes to the althabret crowd will have any effect on her reelection.

        Comment by jack — June 14, 2017 @ 5:24 pm

  5. Lauren, thank you for chronicling this. My memories of the Lesson 9 disgrace are vivid. I sat in Franklin Elementary at an information session and remember the bigotry of Christians hurled at the presenters. I held a sign in favor of the lesson plan at the meeting at Alameda High, where the Christians blocked those who didn’t share their views from speaking. It was horrible, and Spencer rode the wave.

    Comment by Larry.Witte — June 19, 2017 @ 10:27 pm

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