Entire California School Board Resigns After Chewing Out Parents on Accidental Zoom Broadcast

Illustration for article titled Entire California School Board Resigns After Chewing Out Parents on Accidental Zoom Broadcast
Photo: Olivier Douliery (Getty Images)

It’s hard to believe that almost a year into the pandemic pushing everything virtual, there are people still struggling to get the hang of Zoom. And yet here we are.

All members of a northern California school board have resigned after being caught deriding parents in a profanity-laden Zoom meeting they didn’t realize was being broadcast to the public. The district’s superintendent Greg Hetrick announced their resignations in a statement released Friday apologizing for the incident, which has gained the Oakley Union Elementary School District nationwide attention and widespread criticism.

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The embarrassing hot mic moment at the board’s Wednesday evening meeting involved Hetrick, former board president Lisa Brizendine, and trustees Kim Beede, Erica Ippolito, and Richie Masadas, as seen in a series of recorded clips shared on Twitter by NBC News Bay Area reporter Bigad Shabad. While waiting for the meeting to start, the board members begin ranting about letters and social media posts from parents criticizing ongoing school closures amid the covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s unfortunate they want to pick on us because they want their babysitters back,” Brizendine said. Another member joked that parents just want their kids out of the way so they can go back to smoking pot in their homes.

“My brother had a delivery service for medical marijuana and his clientele were parents with their kids at school,” Masadas said.

Superintendent Hetrick mentioned a new technology employed by a fellow district that could cut off public comments when a person’s allotted time runs out, a suggestion the others welcomed a bit too enthusiastically.

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“Are we alone,” Beede asked at one point, not realizing the broadcast was live, before launching into a tirade about a particular parent who chastised her on social media for attending a party shortly after declaring that it still wasn’t safe to return to in-person learning.

“Bitch if you’re going to call me out, I’m going to fuck you up,” she said as the other members laugh.

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Ironically, amid all the trash-talking, at one point Masadas waves these parents off as keyboard warriors, noting that “it’s easy to hide behind a screen but when you’re face to face with people it’s a whole different ball game.”

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Also captured on video was the moment of horrifying realization when the board learns they’re on a live feed. Apparently, someone forgot to check the Zoom meeting’s privacy settings. “Uh-oh,” Beede said after reading a comment that the broadcast is open to the public. She quickly informs the others and within seconds the meeting switches to private.

In the immediate fallout, Brizendine stepped down as president and apologized for her “callous” remarks. Beede, Ippolito, and Masadas also resigned after a petition calling for their termination gained nearly 7,000 signatures. The trustees apologized in a joint statement shared by the superintendent:

“We deeply regret the earlier comments that were made in the meeting of the Board of Education earlier this week. As trustees, we realize it is our responsibility to model the conduct that we expect of our students and staff, and it is our obligation to build confidence in District leadership; our comments failed you in both regards, and for this we offer our sincerest apology.”

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County education board members will hold down the fort until a new Oakley Union Elementary School District board can be seated. Hopefully, whoever they get to replace them will know how to work Zoom—or at least manage to avoid showing their whole ass on a live feed.

Gizmodo weekend editor. Freelance games reporter. Full-time disaster bi.

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DISCUSSION

I am a bit surprised that no one attempted to buffer the statements just a little, maybe temper the jaded harshness with a nod to how difficult it is— no matter if you are a teacher dealing with children all day long or a parent trying to do the best they can with kids stuck at home in a terrible situation? Show a little understanding in the midst of all the upheaval within the education system. The smug dismissive tone seemed to be shared by all..