Community members interrupt student Acalanes Unified governing board member


As Isabelle Bennette, student member of the Acalanes Unified High School District Governing Board, gave an opening report at a September 2021 board meeting, three community members interrupted her presentation and then left the meeting. 

“And so like two or three seconds into my first sentence, they started laughing. They said, ‘You’re kidding me,’ and then they left,” said Bennette, who is a student at Miramonte. The attendees interrupted as she began a land acknowledgement for the Muwekma Ohlone tribe, whose land the district occupies.

During public comment before Bennette’s speech, the community members voiced discontent about what they see as  inconsistency across the district on COVID-19 safety measures, and critiqued the expansion of diversity and equity education across the district.  

“One of the other moms said that her son felt bad about being a white male in the district because he felt like he’s a bad person because of his race and his gender,” Bennette said. 

“Watching adult women mock a high schooler for acknowledging the native land made me very embarrassed for them,” said senior Miramonte student representative to the board Thomas Quinnild. “Not only was it blatantly disrespectful, their actions showed true immaturity. I was also disappointed that no adults in the room backed Isabelle up, but I am glad that Dr. Nickerson recognized the harm involved in the situation.” 

Following the meeting, District Superintendent John Nickerson sent a formal notice to the district staff in which he wrote: 

“Three parents did show up to make comments about our equity work, unfairly criticize employees, and then were disrespectful to our Student Board Member, Isabelle, as they walked out of the meeting.”

Nickerson suggested a new board meeting policy regarding attendee civility. According to the email, the policy would “at least be a public statement of values and expectations and further empower the Board to stop the meeting and remove individuals should people come with poor behavior or disrupt the meeting.”

Bennette feels less hurt by the incident and more supported and encouraged by comments that many teachers and staff gave after hearing about the occurrence. 

“They were all just showing me support, which is fantastic because, as someone who is so involved in equity, to hear [the members] misunderstand what equity is about was frustrating to me. So, seeing that the district itself is still interested in and is positive towards equity was really important to me,” Bennette said.