SAN JOSE, Calif. - An outraged Franklin-McKinley School District board of trustees is asking one of its members to resign.
On Tuesday, district officials denounced the actions of board member Marc Cooper, saying he misrepresented its curriculum and violated bylaws, as well as the state education code. They voted 4-1 to censure him, with Cooper casting the lone no vote. The decision was driven by a meeting Cooper attended at Seven Trees Library on Sept. 7, along with the group Informed Parents of Silicon Valley--an organization openly against teaching critical race theory and gender expansive education in schools.
The censure resolution said Cooper and Informed Parents of Silicon Valley relayed misinformation about Franklin-McKinley School District, including that it teaches critical race theory and inappropriate curriculum. Board President Rudy Rodriguez said the organization violates the California Department of Education's position on diversity and inclusion, ethnic studies and supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion.
Rodriguez asked Cooper to immediately acknowledge his behavior violated district bylaws and submit his resignation. Cooper threatened to sue the board for defamation and not complying with the Brown Act, a state transparency law, which he didn't clarify.
"You're intentionally defaming me and putting yourself in a position to be sued for defamation," he told the board. "If you vote to censure me and recommend my resignation, you're placing yourself in that place."
Cooper said he attended the community meeting to bring parents' attention to failing test scores.
"I can't speak for Informed Parents," he said. "I cannot speak for their policies."
Cooper said the board is tying him to accusations it's making against Informed Parents of Silicon Valley, when he was just invited to be a guest speaker. He denied violating district bylaws and said his voice shouldn't be silenced. He said he's in favor of diversity and equity.
Board Vice President George Sanchez said a flyer promoting the meeting with the school district's name on it violated board law by misrepresenting the district.
"The board member had the opportunity to denounce and object to the meeting, but he failed to do so...," he said, "whereas the other picture on the flyer, Councilmember Bien Doan ... sent a letter to (Informed Parents of Silicon Valley) and asked them to remove him from the meeting because he is opposed to their actions and beliefs."
Sanchez cited San Jose Spotlight's Sept. 1 article, which quoted the flyer as saying, "Our schools have fallen prey to a dangerous agenda pushed by politically driven educators seeking to indoctrinate our children at the expense of your family's values and beliefs."
Trustee Steven Sanchez asked if the organization had permission to put Cooper's picture on the flyer. Cooper said he thought he was asked, but was unsure. He said he felt it was ok having his picture on it as he was one voice.
Parent Rosa Cortez said Informed Parents of Silicon Valley is endangering children by providing disinformation.
"Anyone who supports them should definitely not sit on our board," she said.
Maimona Afzal Berta, a Santa Clara County Board of Education member who attended the meeting, noted the board of education has adopted a resolution against book bans, especially those addressing LGBTQ themes or characters.
"Those are students that we represent and serve in the classroom," she said. "(We have taken) a number of stances to ensure the inclusion and safety of all students over the years and whether or not personal or political beliefs apply, we have an obligation to represent the district accurately."
Not everyone agreed with the decision to censure Cooper. Franklin Bodine defended Cooper's freedom of speech. He said each board member has the right to express and address people and groups with their opinions.
"Just because you speak to a group doesn't mean you support and agree with everything that group might agree with," Bodine said. "I don't think people should be censured for their beliefs. We value diversity and diversity of opinion is one aspect of diversity."
Rev. Jeff Moore, head of NAACP San Jose/Silicon Valley, attended the meeting and was furious with Cooper and his alleged association with Informed Parents of Silicon Valley.
"This community will take you on," he said. "There will be other people in the community who will stand up to you. We will not allow you to ban books, or to ban Black history, or to ban the fact that we have transgender and other sexually oriented people. This community will stand up against any book bans, against anybody talking (badly) about LGBTQs."
Moore said he supported censuring Cooper and would work to recall him. Cooper's term ends November 2026.
"We are going to fight back," he said. "We are a community of multicultural people that will be respected. You're not going to bring that rhetoric into Santa Clara County. We are coming for your seat."