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SF high school faces backlash after eliminating student elections to engineer diversity

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James Ortiz was reportedly courted by school officials to serve as freshman class vice president because of his surname. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

An attempt to engineer diversity in student government at a public high school in San Francisco has drawn scrutiny from parents who claim faculty tried to replace an appointed student leader with another student because of his Latino last name.

For the first time, administrators at Raoul Wallenberg High School decided last September to forgo the democratic process in student elections and appoint members of the freshman class to most of the seats on the student council. The freshman president and all student leaders for other grade levels were still elected.

Part of the reasoning behind the change was to “encourage more diversity in our student leadership,” according to Principal Cheryl Foster, who responded to questions from the San Francisco Examiner through a district spokesperson.

But the attempt reportedly elicited outrage at a community meeting on April 28 from students who wanted the right to vote and parents like Christina Martinez, who said school officials tried to court her son, James Ortiz, 15, onto the student council because of his surname.

The practice could violate the San Francisco Unified School District’s student handbook, under which students have the right to a “free election of their peers in the student government.”

Assistant Principal Zaia Vera reportedly told Martinez she wanted Ortiz in office because it would make the student government look more diverse. Asian girls were the predominant candidates for student office in recent years.

“She said to me, ‘Mrs. Martinez, you could understand as a fellow Latina what we’re looking for here,” Martinez, who is not Latina, recalled. “‘We only have Asian girls run for office and we want the Wallenberg website to show not only Asian girls.’”

The majority of students at Wallenberg — 53 percent — in the 2014-15 school year were Asian, according to the district.

“Our school is predominantly Asian, so if more Asian students run for student government, well, that’s inevitable,” said Elisa Yeung, the junior class treasurer. “People who are of a minority race, for example, if they don’t run maybe it’s because there are less of those students at our school.”

Ortiz was thrilled to make posters, stickers and his stump speech when he threw his hat into the ring for vice president of the ninth-grade class last September.

“He was very excited when he came home from school and said ‘my teacher has nominated me to run for vice president,’” Martinez said. “I thought they saw something in him: leadership or merit or good grades.”

But it turned out there apparently was another reason Ortiz was pushed to fill the student leadership role, according to Martinez.

After it was announced that another student was selected for the vice president seat, Ortiz was called into the principal’s office on three occasions, his mother said. Faculty twice encouraged him to become freshman treasurer.

On the third occasion, Ortiz and the white student who was selected as vice president were both called into the office. Faculty then asked the appointed vice president to step down so that Ortiz could take her seat, which he declined.

“They were, like, bribing me into being on the student council,” said Ortiz, who, despite his last name, identifies as white. “It was basically a thanks, but no thanks.”

At the meeting last week, Foster reportedly admitted that freshmen were not allowed “a free and fair election,” according to Teresa Moeller, who runs communications for the Parent, Teacher, Student Association at Wallenberg.

Moeller took notes during the meeting and recorded Foster as saying, “We learned a lot from this, from children like [Ortiz], who didn’t want us to install them into posts they were not elected for.”

A poster hangs at Raoul Wallenberg High School calling for diversity in student government. Administrators came under fire for replacing freshman elections with student appointments. (Courtesy James Ortiz).

A poster hangs at Raoul Wallenberg High School calling for diversity in student government. Administrators came under fire for replacing freshman elections with student appointments. (Courtesy James Ortiz).

In her statement to the Examiner, Foster said the process “worked to encourage non-traditional candidates and resulted in a diverse ninth grade group of officers.” In one case, a freshman had not considered running until he was recommended by faculty.

But a proposal at the school to make appointments in all grade levels this semester was shot down by students, Foster said.

Yeung, the junior treasurer, said she believed the elected process was the way to go.

“You should learn the skills to be able to say I want to run for this and here’s why, be able to tell people you should vote for me because this, this and this,” Yeung said. “I think that’s a great way for us to learn as students.”

S.F. Examiner staff writer Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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  • JB

    Tolerance and diversity are code words for lower standards and blurred distinctions. You can’t make this stuff up-its one of those “only in San Francisco” things.

  • Allen Jones

    This is what happens when you try to force people into YOUR picture. Ortiz gets my vote for Student of the Year.

  • Allen Jones

    I agree. And it’s embarrassing. I don’t see diversity being pushed in the predominantly Black SF schools.

  • Mark S. Pfeiffer

    Well, at least the students at Wallenberg are behaving like adults. I’m sure the principal and her VPN would probably like to just “appoint” the next POTUS, and forego the general election in November.

  • JB

    Thanks. I would however point out that to be embarrassed you have some concept of shame. I don’t see that in San Francisco.

  • R94110

    Everyone knows that the word “diversity” is used as a convenient cover for activities that are designed to disadvantage whites. Which is why Prop 209 was passed, which outlawed racial quotas and so-called reverse racism in our public institutions

  • Howard Epstein

    The incompetent unAmerican politically correct “progressive” Principal Cheryl Foster should be fired. She would be happier if she relocated to Cuba or Venezuela where they govern by dictatorship.

  • granddad1

    They are Democrats; they are liberals; they have no shame.

  • Ted Seay

    Silly me; I thoughts Asians WERE a minority group…

  • Randy F.

    ” Trump 2016 !!! “…. in chalk on your side walk .

  • Randy F.

    ” Seven square miles surrounded by reality ” ..a Mr. Kantner once said or something to that effect…

  • Greg81

    Ted. What were you thinking? Don’t you know that Asians don’t count as minority as far as the left is concerned? They don’t fit into the victim stereotype because they work hard, get good grades, and run businesses.

  • SamLowerySF

    the war on whites

  • Guest

    Another reason never to vote for any pay increases for these fools sfusd. They are a perverted blend of socialist/communist/fascist, in other words .. Progressives.

  • Geordie Schall

    So, a freshman has to teach a ‘teacher’? How do our teachers get a job when they are so ignorant?

  • magicman2276

    High School Student Council’s don’t really do much of anything. The sole purpose, if there even is one, is to give the Students a real world lesson in democracy. If the administrators were trying to give a lesson on how the Politburo in the Soviet Union works they’ve succeeded.

  • Kyle Mitchell

    So whites are a minority there, and yet they STILL choose to take down the white student to fill the ‘diversity quota’. Diversity is liberal speak for ‘less white’.

  • D. Van Nostrand

    Weren’t the potential victims here Asian?

  • gravevapors

    Typical liberal act by the school staff.
    Use whatever means to create the desired end.
    Even it the majority wants nothing to do with aforementioned end.
    Good example on the national stage.
    Gun control wants of the liberal vs. record year over year gun
    sales by the people of the U.S.
    The coastal leftist authoritarians try to create
    their own alternate reality by claiming it is only 3 rednecks in Kentucky
    or Texas buying these tens of millions of guns.
    Fun to watch these Ringling brothers mental gymnastics (Illness)
    in the heads of these folks.
    They really need to get out of their little echo chamber enclaves and
    embrace the real world for a change.

  • euphie

    An old story. When I was in high school (60’s), we had a black girl run for cheerleader. The top 6 contenders were elected; she placed 7th (supposedly). It was well known that the vote count was falsified; with a student body of 90+% white, it would have been considered an embarrassment to have a black girl on the cheerleading squad. The following year, she ran for a student body office, and won in a landslide–the kids weren’t fooled.

  • Skywalker

    Liberals make ISIS look like JV teams.

  • godwings101

    This is just soft tyranny through political correctness.

  • YZ

    Well we Asians tried very hard to be color blind in our lives in this country of USA, you dem always tried so hard to let us see colors and inject your sinister colored “born rights”. Founding fathers said in US constitution that all men are created equal. There IS NO race or color label on that “equal”.

    What you people tried to do to this country and its constitution system is bad intention and bad consequence for everyone.

  • Kevin J Seay

    Imagine if the people responsible ever achieve a position of political power.
    We already know how little regard for democracy they have when it doesn’t fit their agenda.
    What kind of manipulation would they get up to as a city councillor, or a state assembly person?
    The person or persons responsible should be fired.
    We don’t need people with so little respect for the democratic process educating, or indoctrinating our children.

  • Cheryl Foster is a dishonest tyrant. No surprise she would manipulate elections to look PC

  • James Meas

    You’ve heard the students and faculty members complaining for years about Cheryle being a manipulative tyrant. Now you have proof. It’s time for this bitch to be fired. Hopefully they can find someone with half a brain to replace her.

  • ducalme

    Progressives are so misguided.

  • Diego de Tomaso

    Assistant Principal Zaia Vera is racist against Asian Females and White males

  • IloveMarineLaPen!

    People are getting sick of this forced trendy diversity crap apparently the kids can see right thru it. Good job students for knowing the difference.

  • Count_Yob

    Calls for “diversity” are usually anti-white.

  • Count_Yob

    Affirmative action.

  • SmokeyBehr

    Asians are the “wobbler” minority. The Liberals and SJWs use Asians as they see fit, depending on what purpose they want to use them for.

  • Capt. Harlock

    As ar

  • JohnyV

    Can you imagine if they dare tried to replace black children instead… there would be holy hell and the entire school staff involved would have been fired on the spot, as well as being branded racists on their permanent record, never to be hired again. These disgraceful liberals are proving themselves to be the very thing they claim to fight against!

  • bill3542

    what… they couldn’t find a black lesbian transsexual with special needs to fill this spot… I’m shocked that this happens in a city full of weirdos which should be nuked from orbit to remove the stain from society.

  • SFhillrunner

    Take a look at the teacher turnover at Wallenberg. And then the vice principal speaking out against her boss? Whoa. You can’t keep a good school running well when there’s a bully at the helm.

  • Aggie95

    And these very same liberal’s will tell the world that Republicans are the racists

    P.S. ….. VOTE DEMOCRAT….. * GRIN -*

  • Aggie95

    They also don’t burn and loot …. Don’t run up massive body counts …. Don’t pitch a tent on welfare rolls ….. Know who there father’s are…. Don’t blame everyone else for their problems

  • MichaelStamper

    Why not just abolish free elections everywhere? The people are too stupid to vote the way they should. We’ll never achieve a socialist utopia if people are free to vote for the candidates of their choice. So, let’s bypass elections and just allocate elected officials by race, gender, and sexual preference.

  • Daniel Ogden

    Am I the only one who finds this disgusting, and racist? For one thing they said most of the students running were Asian, so they ask one of the few white kids to step down instead of one of the many Asian kids? Not that in the big picture that’s the worst part about this. The fact that liberals are willing to forgo the democratic process to reach they’re twisted ass goals just shows how un-American it is to be a liberal in the first place.

  • politicallynaive

    “We learned a lot from this, from children like [Ortiz], who didn’t want us to install them into posts they were not elected for.” What a joke. What she is saying is that “we learned that we should not interfere with a democratic process”, DUH!!”

  • Katherine McChesney

    Anti-White is racist.

  • TheWhiteLilyBlog

    I feel for James Ortiz’ mom. Here he comes home with the news and she innocently assumes he has earned the honor of running for student council. She thinks of the sacrifices she’s made to cultivate the talent he has. She is so happy. As a mother, I know how deeply that touched her, and I know how much it hurt her, to that same depth, when she learned it was all empty, that he’d been hustled for his last name.

    Damn them, and I do not say that lightly.

  • TheWhiteLilyBlog

    Yes they do things! In the hands of a good sponsor, kids have a chance to plan and carry out projects and that kind of experience is valuable. My student council made an after-school program for poor kids in my home town of East St. Louis. It made a lifetime difference to me, the love I learned to put to work. Maybe it mattered to the little kids too!

  • TheWhiteLilyBlog

    Yeah, let’s see that happen. She delivers the goods to the administration–the right last names, the right colors–so they can say their demented programs work.

  • TheWhiteLilyBlog

    Oh Michael. They’re going to.

  • SylvieFeatherfoot

    This particular incident appears to have been directed more against Asian girls than white students generally, although the particular student asked to step down as VP was white (since it is SF, obviously “white” doesn’t count toward “diversity”).

    So, racism against Asians and whites, sexism against both Asian and white female students.

    Thanks, San Francisco, for showing us how to be fair – it means being monumentally UNJUST, it mans violating rules and charters, it means disenfranchising voters.

    Ah, the progressive dream . . .

  • SilverCristo

    Ortiz is a natural born thinker. Good for him.

  • Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

    A free election isn’t really free if there is no government coercion. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, we could let you have your votes, but you’d just use them in all the wrong ways.

  • Adam Sternberg

    If that were to happen, the Black Lies Matter terrorists would be rioting in the streets.

  • VMS

    At this school, the student council are used to do fundraising and not much else. There is not much interest in even running because they know it’s all using their little precious money planning stressful events to hopefully create more money so they can have things like prom and graduation!

    They also use the journalism class to make the yearbook. They do little else. my son actually got in a lot of trouble messing around in that class because there was nothing to do but edit yearbook pictures and write captions about people you don’t even know. He said they would do things like count votes for most popular but the winner wouldn’t have a last name and they’d just pick one randomly from a list of people with that name and then get in trouble for doing that, but they still allowed it in because they didn’t know who it was either! It makes for a very poor quality yearbook.

  • Apple Sauce

    Diversity means nothing other than white discrimination.

  • KhanBuryKhan

    “We only have Asian girls run for office and we want the Wallenberg website to show not only Asian girls.’” Reads like bigotry to me. And the administrators appear to be totally clueless on that point.