December 13 – A school board in Upper Moreland County, PA, voted to elect the school board president on December 6 during a reorganizational meeting. Typically this is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type of thing – fairly standard.
But on that night, in that meeting, school board member Jennifer Solot said, she felt the male candidate would make an excellent president, but because he was the only cis white male on the board, it sends the wrong message to the Upper Moreland Pennsylvania community.
For clarification purposes, a cisgender person is one who identifies as the gender they were born.
The superintendent has reported that Solot’s comments were her own and did not reflect others on the school board or the district.
Solot has since tendered her resignation to the school board beginning in 2023.
The Upper Moreland School District is in a suburb of Philadelphia and the case is getting national media attention.
Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “To this person’s credit that resigned, look, these board members, they’re all volunteers. No one’s getting paid to be on a school board in Pennsylvania. Might you see these kind of things happening in other school boards? Possibly. These people, they are elected, but they’re volunteers. Sometimes volunteer positions, maybe it’s not something they necessarily want to be pulled too much in if they’re getting this kind of blowback and criticism.”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “It’s unreal to me that she can make, I’m sorry, a very racist statement like that. She admitted this person would do an excellent job, but he shouldn’t be hired because he’s not an intersectional identity. The people who are getting most othererd and most marginalized in our society right now are white, male, and I hate that word cis because it’s pretending like we’re all assigned gender at birth, which we’re not, but that’s the new othered person. That’s the new person non grata that people just won’t recognize as being valuable in our society anymore. It’s completely discriminatory and hateful in my opinion.”
Barkdoll said, “We’ve got a problem on school boards when someone takes this position like she has saying that we can’t have a white male board president because it’s not reflective of our community. That’s not her to make that call. These are elected officials. Yes, they’re volunteers, but this is a real problem when you see a board member take that kind of position and then not only do they take the position, but they say well I’m just not even going to be here anymore. I’m going to resign because I’m so troubled by this. It’s definitely a problem.”
Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “I’m still kind of wrestling with this whole school board not being paid thing here. There is an enormous amount of time and pressure on school boards, especially when you’re dealing with the future of our communities. I’m not looking for a big coin of cash here. You’re paying these (borough) council people five grand or so a year and I’m not paying school board people.”
Jansen said, “I’d like to get back to the messages that are being sent. This woman says oh I can’t hire this guy because I don’t like the message that’s being sent. I don’t like the message she’s sending because she’s sending a message that this person is somehow bad or wrong. There’s a real problem in this country with discounting people of a certain ideological perspective, conservative, maybe wanting to put the needs and desires of our nation first and those who don’t fit the category of the intersectional. I think it’s a real problem. I think that’s the message that we have to start pushing back harder against.”
Barkdoll said, “On that school board issue, legally, someone can be exposed legally, have liability, for what would be called reverse discrimination. That school board woman’s comments would be classic textbook definition of reverse discrimination. When she says I’m not going to vote for this person because he’s a white male. It’s unlikely any lawsuit will be brought here because these are volunteers. If these were paid positions, that guy, he would have had grounds to possibly file a lawsuit here. I’ve never understood why not pay these school board members some nominal amount of money. I’m not saying big money, but why not give them a couple thousand bucks a year to at least cover some of their expenses? They often meet at least twice a month in public meetings, plus all sorts of committee meetings and special meetings that they have to attend and it’s all volunteer work. I think sometimes the public doesn’t totally appreciate that.”
Pay for school board members would require legislative action from the state.
Jansen said, “I like your other point, too, about accountability. Because if they’re going to make impactful decisions, then they should be able to be held accountable for something like she just did and if paying makes that happen, I’m all for it.”
Ryan added, “I’ve got Congress going on recess. You know what? Children go on recess. I’ve got a full time legislature out there that how many days a year do they actually work?”
Barkdoll said, “I think 50, maybe less than that how many days they’re in session.”
Ryan continued, “I’ve got these lawmakers that battle back and forth and can’t get borough radar, but maybe we roll back, which will never happen in my lifetime, I’ll be taking a dirt nap before any of this happens, but maybe take some of the dough off of the money that they’re giving themselves raises on the cost living and we start thinking about taking care of the school board members a little bit. There’s such inequities on this. I’ve got guys that get their per diems, maybe we take all the per diem money and take that away. How about you give up your per diems, put that all into a pool and let’s help out some of the school board members? There’s plenty of suggestions out there, but do they have the courage, the stones in which to do that? Probably not.”
Barkdoll agreed, “None of those things would happen, even though this would be a fraction of a fraction of a fraction in the scheme of a state budget. Even if you paid every school board member, say, $2,000 a year for their service, but I just don’t think you’ll see it. It’s been like this forever. There’s been an argument out there too sometimes that even a nominal pay might attract more people to run for these positions, which would also be a benefit, but I just don’t see it happening.”