Ever since I was a student at UC Berkeley, I wanted to run for political office. Ever since the 2016 general election, I knew I needed to run for office soon. I first considered running for School Board in late 2017 when so many of the amazing teachers I learned so much from were forced to strike just to be heard. I felt even more strongly about running when community members had to attend a School Board meeting where they pleaded the Board to take concrete action to keep ICE off of campuses here in Petaluma.
I loved growing up in Petaluma. I went away for four years to go to college and consciously chose to come back here. I can’t help that my parents have a great taste in towns! But growing up as a bisexual kid, navigating school was tricky. I was lucky to have a safe home where I could navigate my queerness after school, but a lot of kids don’t have a safe home or a home with the resources to enable them to explore their identity after class ends.
The library, the iPads, and the other resources that the schools provide could be a lifesaver for a confused kid — but not if district-wide filters continue to prevent us from being able to search for stories and articles about our identities, our issues, and our dreams. When I was a student, the filters wouldn’t let me google any word that I might use to describe my identity — not “gay,” not “lesbian,” not “bisexual.” I don’t remember if I googled “queer,” but I’ll go out on a limb and guess that was blocked too. That policy made me feel invisible and unimportant. Other queer and trans kids had it worse than me, and received little support, if any.
Petaluma’s kids deserve our respect and trust. They deserve days free from bullying and holistic responses to issues like tardiness, truancy, and declining grades. Students are far more than just students, and most teachers here understand that. Students love their teachers and don’t get to know staff and administration unless they’re in trouble. More open communication and accessible relationships are key to a healthier school environment.
Our teachers, staff, students, and parents deserve proactive support, not reactive crumbs. Students, staff, teachers, and parents who are wronged deserve apologies and justice, not cover-ups and pivots. Petaluma deserves new voices and new leadership, and I intend to be a new, young voice on the School Board as someone who grew up in these schools, largely thanks to the teachers and staff who still serve Petaluma today.