A San Francisco middle school principal withheld the results of the first student council election in years because the winners were white, Asian and mixed-race–and not black or Hispanic.
Lena Van Haren, 36, decided that because Everett Middle School is 56% Hispanic, 18% white, 20% white, 9% black, and 5% Asian, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the October 10 results should have reflected that diversity.
On October 15, she sent an email to parents that stated, “This is complex, but as a parent and a principal, I truly believe it behooves us to be thoughtful about our next steps here so that we can have a diverse student council that is truly representative of all voices at Everett.”
Van Haren expressed her chagrin over the results, telling KTVU, “That is concerning to me, because as principal I want to make sure that the voices are all heard, from all backgrounds.”
After her decision started to trigger a major backlash, she called a meeting of students and administrators, and reportedly protested, “We’re not nullifying the election, we’re not canceling the election, we’re not saying this didn’t count,” but still added that extra positions might be created to satisfy her.
Withholding the results for over a week, on October 19, Van Haren stated, “We paused to have a conversation. I never, ever said we wouldn’t share the results or they weren’t good enough. This is middle school. It’s not a presidential election. It was not about hurting democracy or putting diversity over democracy.”
She added, “It’s not OK for a school that is really, really diverse to have the student representatives majority white. The easy thing would have been to announce the results and move on. I intentionally did not choose the easy way because this is so important.”
Seventh-grader Sebastian Kaplan, who had run for class representative, told KRON 4, “The whole school voted for those people, so it is not like people rigged the game. But in a way, now it is kinda being rigged.”