Sonoma County Office of Education

Joint Statement on Hate Speech During Public Meetings

09/14/2023 -

Sonoma County Office of Education exterior 2023Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Amie R. Carter and Sonoma County Board of Education President Herman G. Hernandez issued the following statement in response to hate speech during recent public meetings.

There is no place in our schools or public spaces for hate speech.

This week, we have seen bigots attempt to hijack public meetings of the Santa Rosa City Schools Board of Trustees and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors with racist, homophobic, and antisemitic rhetoric during public comment periods. This cannot stand.

Public meetings by school boards and other governmental agencies are essential to modern democracy, and they should not be held hostage by racists, homophobes, or misogynists. Nor should school boards’ careful deliberation of matters that affect students’ academic outcomes, sense of belonging, and well-being be derailed by the actions of a handful of anonymous trolls.

We call on Sonoma County as a community to work together to stand up to, repudiate, and silence these destructive voices. Our young people are watching, making it important for all of us to demonstrate daily our shared values of inclusion and mutual respect for every member of our diverse community.

While free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy, public meetings should not play host to hate speech. We urge school and other government boards who allow public comment via online platforms to consult with their legal teams about how they might vet these disruptive comments, and deny a platform to malicious actors.

These incidents also serve as a reminder that we should all strive to be the best versions of ourselves when engaging in public debate. We need to listen respectfully, deliver feedback thoughtfully, hold space for conflicting opinions, celebrate and honor our differences, and work together to find solutions so that our students grow up in a better world.

Amie Carter, Ed.D.
Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools

Herman G. Hernandez
President, Sonoma County Board of Education