Campbell Schools Trustee Matthew Dean Apologizes for Inflammatory Remarks

Muskaan Sandu and Taykhoom Dalal, student trustees for Campbell Union High School District, spent months surveying their peers to prepare for their year-end report to the board last week. Their findings, presented at the May 17 meeting, were alarming: rampant use of “the N-word” and teachers outing queer teens without consent.

But trustee Matthew Dean wasn’t buying it. The real problem, he explained by way of a parable about fat-shaming his son, is that kids need to toughen up and find the “diamond” in whatever insult someone hurls their way.

Sandu, 17, calmly dismantled Dean’s not-so-bon mot.

“When you’re called the N-word, there’s no diamond in that,” she said, adding, “there is danger in that, there is oppression in that.”

Dean, apparently, had more whitesplaining to do.

“One thing I do a lot is I play basketball,” he continued. “The No. 1 group of people using that word is not Caucasian.”

Instead of rebuking her fellow trustee, Stacey Brown tried to explain away his remark. The rest of the all-white board—Kalen Gallagher, Kristiina Arrasmith and Linda Goytia—then proceeded to change the subject. But video of the exchange popped up on NextDoor, where it continues to offend an even wider audience.

Gallagher, the board president and one of six candidates running for San Jose’s District 9 City Council seat, issued a vague, diffident statement three days later distancing himself from the cringeworthy quip without condemning it. He later quietly scrubbed Dean’s name from the endorsement list on his D9 campaign website. Dean, for his part, apologized in an uncharacteristically tame email Monday, but only after doubling down on his inflammatory hot-takes in a phone call with Fly just 72 hours earlier.

“If we let students sit around waiting for the system to protect them, then we are raising a generation of completely sad and weak people,” the father of five and former mayor of Campbell cautioned.

Dean went on to deny the existence of systemic racism, extol the virtues of European colonialism and lament the perils of complimenting women amid the #MeToo movement—“you might get charged with harassment”—before fondly describing the innocent days of yore when he spent recess playing a ball game called “Smear the Queer.”

Below is a copy of the email from Dean, who comes up for re-election this fall.

In regards to the meeting, I felt it important to share my thoughts in a written form.

Last week, two of our district’s student leaders came before our board to share their views on the issues they feel need our attention throughout the District.

Unfortunately, in an attempt to create a teachable moment, I not only failed in the message and words that I was delivering, but equally, failed in recognizing the courage it took for our student leaders to stand before our board to share their point of view on topics that are clearly impacting their lives.

To our student leaders, I simply want to state, from the bottom of my heart, that I am deeply sorry if I made you feel as if your voice did not matter. Not only does your voice matter, it is so strong that I feel that the teachable moment I was seeking to achieve for you became a teachable moment for me.

Our district is driven by the principle that every student matters. I want you to know that I too am driven by that principle.

Respectfully,

Matthew T

And here is the statement from Gallagher.

“As a board we believe that student voice is critical to the decisions that we make, and we are proud of our student board members’ willingness to share honest accounts of how students are experiencing our district.

Trustee Dean’s comments in response to the student board member presentation at our May 17 meeting were his own and do not reflect the views of the Board nor do they align with the mission and guiding principles of our district.

I have directed our superintendent to provide the board with a plan for addressing the issues raised by the student board members in their report. Additionally, I will work with my fellow board members to ensure that we have the time, training, and experiences necessary to develop mindsets that are better equipped for serving our students.”

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13 Comments

  1. “whitesplaining” This does nothing to help and, in fact, gives ammunition to the notion that it is “ok” to use derogatory terms about caucasians to prove your point. This is a childish and ignorant path, and will only galvanize those people who already feel as if all people of color have carte blanche to say whatever they wish…as long as you are only insulting and demeaning whites. You have engaged in the exact thing you have accused Mr. Dean of, and I, for one, insist on an apology.

    • I, too, demand an apology. And I feel that the person responsible for these remarks should have their name released to the public. Perhaps local media would be interested in this.

  2. > To our student leaders, I simply want to state, from the bottom of my heart, that I am deeply sorry if I made you feel as if your voice did not matter.

    For the record, I certainly feel that my voice does not matter in San Jose, Santa Clara County, or in one-party California.

    Can I got some apologies, please?

    And, by the way, the apologies need to be from the bottom of the apologists’ hearts. Don’t make my pain any worse with insincere or fake apologies.

  3. Don’t you just love the children! They are not afraid to speak truth to power! And then deal with the wimpy pushback from Board members! Very courageous! I am so hopeful for our future with children like these!

    It is time for these pompous teachable moment toads to step aside.

    I recommend that the students collectively band together and make this Board pay a price by calling for a system-wide school system shut down for a day. Don’t let a patronizing faux e-mail from a clueless and patronizing Board member deter you. Take action! It will make the Board think twice about mouthing off again when you have something important to tell them.

    By the way, please reach out to your fellow students within Santa Clara Unified School District as the grown-ups there are aiding and abetting teachers who like to sexually harass students!

    Hurrah for our Students! So impressive! Keep up the great work! I love you!

    • “Courageous,” Bill? You’re too easily impressed. And revommending that they cost the school district money at no risk to themselves is just self-serving and immature. But they’re just kids, so it’s fun to them. But it’s not “courageous”.

      It’s easy to be courageous when you’re not risking much, if anything at all. These students live at home. They don’t have 9 to 5 jobs, or assets that can be attached, or an election or appointment to lose by making their comments. What they actually are is mouthy kids needling adults. But they’ll grow up some day, most of them anyway.

      I have no problem with kids “speaking truth to pwer”; I was probably similar in high school, just after the Civil War. But they’re not being courageous. Let’s see them risk losing something that’s really valuable to them due to their comments. Then we’ll see one of two outcomes:

      • Having the courage to make public remarks, or

      • Tail-tucking, as they skedaddle over the nearest hill to hide out

      For about 98% of them, I’d bet on the second outcome.

      • I would not sell the students so short, SmokeyI used to have similar opinions about the immaturity of students but I changed this biased perspective after actually working with students who were participating in focus group meetings to support district-level strategic planning. The students took the work seriously and contributed ideas that were well thought out and very relevant to their education. The students expected that their teachers respect them and give them some voice within the classroom. They wanted their teachers to have strong content knowledge and be able to teach well. They wanted to be prepared academically for success in college and career! Meanwhile the grown ups in the strategic planning work meandered about within the fog of education advocating for “critical thinking,” personalized learning, blended learning, whole child, parent learning had a yada yada yada!

        In one school district near Seattle, the student group participating in strategic planning got fed up with the adult relentless meanderings and formed an ad hoc team to write the first draft of the strategic plan. They presented a well thought out strategic pan that in the mainwas ultimately adopted by the larger strategic planning team! So don’t underestimate the power of our students to lead significant change!

        Taking action against bullying and patronizing Board members would definitely entail significant risks for the students and their families! Teachers and Administrators will take retribution on students who pursue just action! You can be sure of that. And the students and parents know it! It is the dirty little secret that suffuses the education system. I saw it in action when I worked in SCUSD especially for English Language Learners. And of course you have monsters like Caserta who exercise retribution on students with impunity!

        We all know that the milquetoast K-12 education system will continue to advocate for the well being of district employees, their families, and friends! It is corrupt inside and out. We need to begin to advocate for some creative solution to break down the current well entrenched pathological systems. Student boycotts to protest Board patronizing platitudes is most appropropriate in my view. The students and parents must take the bull by the horn and act in ways that promote their fundamental interest in changing the system to improve their academic outcomes!

        Don’r Sell the students short. They may be our only hope for real change!

  4. PS to Students:

    You know that you can turn the Board Member lumps of coal into diamonds! Crush them with pressure!

    Call for a system-wide School District Boycott. Establish your own day to study sexual harassment, intimidation, bullying, and racism within your schools kind of like Starbuck’s is doing at their stores. Be sure that you plan, implement, and evaluate the event independently because if you don’t you will be co-opted and patronized by District and school administrators!

    Good luck!

  5. So sad. All trustees are responsible for the behavior of Dean and Gallagher should not run for Council. He must have the same opinions and thoughts of Dean if he and the others did not stop and correct Dean when the remarks were being made. The statement from Gallagher is dumb and shows he doesn’t have the sense to run for council if he needs training at his age on how to act and think.

  6. > Dean, apparently, had more whitesplaining to do.

    If mocking and demaining of white people is tolerated at SJI/Metro, it must qualify as a “hostile workplace environment” for white employees.

    SJI/Metro DOES have white employees? Yes? No?

  7. As someone that has been called most every name in the bad book, my advice, grow a shell. The world is a hard place, snowflakes are way too easy to break. Wear the insults as a badge of honor.
    It’s amazing how much respect you get when you stand up to a bully, even one that thinks he’s political correct.

  8. Interesting, as a white student in the CUHSD I was called all sorts of demeaning and fascist names by the other students because I was the minority at the school. But it didn’t count because I was white. Fascinating turn of events. Also you should hear these two students talk at the meetings, they constantly refer to the board as “you white people”. They have very little respect for the board or human kind in general. Also, I will make a motion to the board to disctonie any funding of ASB events that play ANY music that uses the n-word, any other curse words, or anything sexual. These are all offensive things and event though they are bleeped out, the context is still there. Context matters. And the students of today are picking up on this and thus action must be taken to prevent them from being exposed to these terms, thoughts, and idealizations.

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