RE: Defamation of Community Responsive Education & Dr. Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales
At a September 13, 2023 Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Education public meeting in Santa Cruz County, California, Dr. Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales and Community Responsive Education (CRE) were smeared with false and potentially libelous accusations of bigotry and antisemitism. These attacks weaponized a statement from the Governor’s office and the California Department of Education, a statement condemned by the UC of Ethnic Studies Faculty Council. Following a series of defamatory statements, the Board did not renew her contract to support Ethnic Studies teacher development and community responsive leadership.
These allegations of bigotry and antisemitism amount to a slander campaign aimed at propagating false views about Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales among the PVUSD community and the wider public and have caused significant financial harm.
CRE and Dr.Tintiangco-Cubales have served the district under a contract to support the development of Ethnic Studies teachers and provide professional development for school principals since the fall of 2021. She has also worked with district leaders to co-create the district’s Ethnic Studies Framework. CRE has provided an Ethnic Studies lecture series and support for any teacher who wants to develop Ethnic Studies curriculum in Santa Cruz County. For over two school years, Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales and CRE supported the Pajaro Valley Unified School District above and beyond the deliverables in their contracts.
The district leadership team worked with Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales to develop a scope of work for the 2023-2024 school year. This work would have included:
- Leadership Development for all secondary principals. This would have included professional development focusing on community responsive leadership, PVUSD’s Ethnic Studies framework, and connecting the wellness of both students and faculty to the development of Ethnic Studies in PVUSD.
- Teacher Development focused on the development of Ethnic Studies teachers, specifically on English Language Arts.
- District Support to develop professional development that is both asynchronous and synchronous for all teachers teaching Ethnic Studies across the disciplines.
There was deliberate and thoughtful planning between CRE and PVUSD district leaders that went into this scope of work. There was significant time investment into planning and visioning this work, with the intention to create a sustainable Ethnic Studies model that could be maintained after this transition year.
Although the proposal was developed over the summer, it was not brought to the Board of Education until the September 13, 2023, meeting. Between the time of the proposal development, there was a concern brought by a rightwing segment of part of the Jewish community regarding false and dangerous allegations that Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales was antisemitic. District leaders were asked to meet with Rabbi Paula Marcus and a group of about twenty-five individuals at the Temple Beth El on August 27th, 2023, to share what PVUSD’s Ethnic Studies curriculum looked like. During this meeting, the majority of the Jewish community present demonstrated support for Ethnic Studies. Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales continued to work with district leaders to shape the work that was supposed to commence on September 14-15, 2023, contingent on approval by the Board.
During the September 13th Board meeting, item 9.10, the Ethnic Studies district leader, Claudia Monjaras, presented PVUSD’s history of Ethnic Studies, including the partnership with CRE since the fall of 2021. The PVUSD ’s Ethnic Studies Framework that was presented was co-created with CRE. She presented a proposal to renew CRE’s contract.
Following the presentation, there were two public comments by Roz Shorenstein and Gil Stein, who both falsely accused Tintiangco-Cubales of bias and bigotry. Shorenstein stated that Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales “objected to stopping hate as a goal of education” and was “a consultant who created a rejected policy for bigotry.” Both commentators made an inaccurate claim that “the state offers this for free,” referring to professional development for ethnic studies.
No evidence was presented to substantiate the defamatory accusations by Shorenstein and Stein. Despite these dangerous claims, the Board did not ask for evidence or attempt to correct the record. The commenters referenced a letter that Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales signed, along with hundreds of ethnic studies experts and organizations, including Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales signed to support authentic ethnic studies amidst right-wing attacks on public education. Another spurious claim, later voiced by Trustee De Serpa was the removal of her name from the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum as evidence of bigotry when, in fact, all 20 of the committee members removed their names when non-experts bowing to intense political pressure, rewrote the curriculum, making it no longer their work and unrecognizable as ethnic studies. This incorrect information about Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales was not corrected. No trustee asked a question for clarification or evidence to support the claims of bias and bigotry made by the commentators. None of the actions evidenced bigotry. On the contrary, the actions mentioned are consistent with Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales’ record, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to antiracism.
Following the two public comments, board members engaged in a discussion that defamed Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales, falsely accusing her of antisemitism. Trustee De Serpa claimed Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales was antisemitic and would not support the contract and pressured trustees to do the same. Despite reassurances from the district’s Ethnic Studies lead that nothing in their work was antisemitic and hearing praise from others, De Serpa insisted she did not want Dr. Tintiangco-Cublaes doing the work. Despite praise for the work that Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales led with CRE in PVUSD, the public mischaracterizations continued without evidence. Following this, Trustee Acosta stated she was “disgusted” to be affiliated with Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales, and Trustee Bolaños Scow voiced support of the program without CRE. Superintendent Schekman stated, “we have a problem with an individual” who he said was biased without providing any evidence of bias. Pushing the Board to finalize a decision opposing Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales, Trustee De Serpa interrupted President Holm and stated, “you don’t have a second..I think it just dies now…I would move that you bring back this item with another consultant.” Further extending the reach of unsubstantiated claims of bigotry and antisemitism to anyone “affiliated with” Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales, De Serpa claimed, again with no evidence, that all Jewish people have a “problem” with Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales to which a district employee stated it would be difficult to find someone not affiliated with her and her “issue” because all “the top people are connected.” The meeting item closed with a vote to bring the item back with a new consultant, ending the contract with Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales and CRE.
All of the disparaging comments made about Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales were based on unfounded assumptions and no evidence. It was a clear character assassination of Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales and a disregard for all the work and dedication she has committed to the field of Ethnic Studies for over 30 years. The Board members made comments and decisions about Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales that were not founded based on concrete actions or evidence. There was a loss of a significant contract that was to employ 6 consultants to support the Ethnic Studies work of PVUSD. Not a single trustee asked for or stated any evidence supporting these spurious claims. In fact, a few board members praised the work and stated they would like it to continue. Their positions were ignored, and the will of the majority was not made clear before denying the CRE contract.
CRE was treated unfairly, and the individual trustee’s willingness to defame someone publicly without a full-throated and persistent defense from those trustees who felt the contract should continue is an abdication of leadership in both cases. Further, the avoidance of a vote on the Board floor to ensure there was no record of who voted for and against contracting with CRE and Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales reflects poorly on the professionalism and leadership of individual trustees and their commitment to transparent decision-making. Derailing the work of the 2-year ethnic studies implementation in PVUSD due to false claims will do real harm to the quality of the curriculum and teaching and, thus, student academic and social outcomes, making this an abrogation of PVUSD’s commitment to the community. Finally, publicly disparaging Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales with unsubstantiated allegations and anyone “affiliated with” her qualifies as defamation that has real reputational and material harm.