Over 50 residents of Palo Alto and neighboring cities assembled at the city hall on Sunday in response to Palo Alto Unified School District board candidate Ingrid Campos’s statements against the LGBTQ community.
The community rally was organized by PAUSD school board candidate Nicole Chiu-Wang and city council candidate Julie Lythcott-Haims, who said that the goal for the rally was not to spread hostility by arguing with Campos, but rather to show support for those she has harmed.
“We don’t want [the rally] to be a campaign event, it is not a campaign event,” Chiu-Wang said. “It’s really a chance for all the candidates to stand up together and say that we all are supporting our LGBTQ community. As adults, and as school board candidates, we need to set the example and make sure that our students feel they are in a safe space.”
In an Aug. 29 blog post, Campos advocated for the banning of LGBTQ related books in PAUSD, which she referred to as “deviant literature.” She also said that parents should maintain “sovereignty” over situations regarding their children’s gender and sexuality and that the topic of gender dysmorphia should stay away from school grounds, in a Palo Alto Weekly questionnaire.
During the rally, Chiu-Wang and Lythcott-Haims invited attendees to share anecdotes of their own “family values” with the crowd, meant to contrast Campos’s self-described “traditional family values.”
“We didn’t originally advertise [the rally] as an open mic because we didn’t want to invite hatred,” Lythcott-Haims said. “What I love is that, in the end, we had over 40 people speak, and it felt like a community reaffirming a set of very inclusive values.”
Attendee and University AME Zion Church Pastor Kaloma Smith said he came to the rally to respond to Campos’s “harmful” statements toward the LGBTQ community.
“We can disagree. We can have different perspectives. We can see things differently. But when you start degrading someone’s humanity, that’s a step too far,” Smith said. “In a world where the negative is always focused on, by doing events like this you start bringing positive movement and positive moments in the community to show that hate doesn’t define everything.”
Local parent Michelle Higgins said she was motivated to attend to support her three children, who identify as LGBTQ, and to show students that they have adult support.
“But, it’s not just for my kids, it’s for all students,” Higgins said. “As adults, we have to show that it’s not just tut-tutted, that we have to show up.”
School board candidate and former PAUSD teacher Shana Segal also voiced her concern for students who may feel alienated as a result of Campos’s statements. Segal stressed the impact of candidates’ messages to students..
“Students are listening to these [election] forums, and I cannot stand by when there are students feeling unheard, unseen,” Segal said. “I’m here so that students, children and adults see other caring adults say ‘This is not okay.’”