Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Stranger Rescinds Its Endorsement of Erin Jones for State Super

Update: well, there is a firestorm of thought on this issue.  Jones has some very passionate supporters and yet there are people who are uncertain/not happy and they fall into two camps.

1) People worried about her stances on LGBTQ issues.
2) People who find her lack of clarity and updating of her positions unnerving.

She led a chapter of Young Life, a high school Christian group, in Spokane for a couple of years. That's fine but some chapters are homophobic but she says hers wasn't. I did check with the regional YL and their leaders all have to sign a "faith and conduct" contract for their own lives which is to embracing their teachings and reject "the gay lifestyle." They also said all kids are welcome and not questioned about their views and the leaders are not there to try to change anyone.

She also said - at her campaign Facebook page - "When I answered "NO" I was referring to both the sexual orientation being a choice question as well as if it (sexual orientation) was a sin question. The answer is NO to both. I do not believe people make a choice in regards to their sexual orientation or it is a sin for those that are apart of the LGBTQ community."

You'll note she does not directly say "being gay is not a sin"; what she said was that it is not a sin to be a part of the LBGTQ community. That's something akin to what the Catholic Church says - you can be gay but you can't act on it. You can be a part of that community but don't act on your feelings.

She also has not answered any questions about her role as state superintendent and guidance to schools on supporting transgendered students.

It's all a little confusing about what Jones does or does not believe.

Does The Stranger have some egg on their faces? Sure but they at least are willing to admit their mistake. They have rescinded endorsements before and it's not like it's the week before the election.

I have a hard time believing in someone like Jones who does not speak with clarity on her positions or shape-shifts as she gives them. She's a smart, decent person but I still don't think she's ready for this job.

end of update
This announcement came a little while ago from The Stranger endorsement board.  It follows a rather whirlwind day of back and forth. I waited on writing anything until this evening and now it's a bigger story with The Stranger pulling their endorsement.  (The Stranger had previously had an enthusiastic endorsement for Jones.)
The Stranger had another interview with her on August 25th. 
In addition, during an August 25 interview with The Stranger, Jones declined to answer directly when asked whether she thinks being gay is a sin. And in a late August endorsement interview with Equal Rights Washington (ERW), the largest group advocating for LGBTQ rights in this state, Jones reportedly talked about LGBTQ identity as a “lifestyle.”
As a result of that ERW interview, Equal Rights Washington said they are endorsing her rival, Rep Chris Reykdal.

As some of my readers may know, Jones had done an interview with a conservative public education blog over in Eastern Washington, the Southwest Washington Education blog, a few months back.  (Oddly, I can't seem to find the link to the blog.) Here's what The Stranger said about that:
Earlier this year, Erin Jones, a former assistant state superintendent and award-winning educator, responded to a conservative blog’s question about “teaching transgenderism” in elementary schools by saying “I do not think it is appropriate” and that such instruction could cause students to “feel additional pressure to ‘choose an orientation.’” Jones’s comments accepted the flawed premise of the right-wing blog’s talking points and language (“transgenderism” is a term used mainly by anti-trans activists, and likewise for the idea that a person is able to choose their sexual orientation). Her comments also run contrary to state curriculum guidelines and fly in the face of scientific research about how kids learn and process ideas about gender and sexuality.
Jones continued: “I am concerned about the prioritization of this curriculum over all else.”
For balance, here's what Reykdal said in answer to the question about “whether kindergartners should be taught transgenderism.”
Reykdal’s answer to the conservative blog was terse and corrective. “The standards do not promote cross-dressing and other fabrications of the extreme right,” Reykdal wrote. “They teach gender identity and self awareness. These are good things not to be vilified.” 
Jones told The Stranger that she thought her comments to SW WA Education blog a "mistake."
She said she’s since spoken to many LGBTQ advocates who educated her on some of the issues—like homophobic and transphobic bullying—faced by LGBTQ youth in schools. 

At the same time, Jones told The Stranger that she didn’t “know exactly” whether kids “choose an orientation.” 

“I think they’re born that way,” Jones said. “I’m not a scientist. I don’t know exactly. I think for most children it’s not a choice.”
Now those are some interesting statements for someone who took in two teens who were rejected by their parents for the teens' sexuality orientation.  (More on this in a minute.)
But when The Stranger followed up by e-mail to ask (again) whether Jones believes kids can choose their sexual orientation, she hedged her answer in personal anecdote. “I am not a scientist, but I think if kids could ‘choose’ their sexuality, the kids I know would not have ‘chosen’ to be gay.”
When The Stranger asked Reykdal if he thinks kids’ sexual orientation is a choice, he replied simply that it’s not.
Here's what Jones had to say about today's article in The Stranger (no word yet on what she thinks of their pulling of their endorsement.)


An open letter:
Today I have been left saddened and in disbelief after reading the Stranger earlier this morning. I am saddened because I have a longstanding, strong support for LGBTQ rights. I recognize and regret using overly equivocal wording on issues related to the LGBTQ community that has let friends and supporters down. I am apologetic that I used language that could be too easily interpreted as equivocal.
I have been asked over the course of this campaign if I think being LGBTQ is a choice and if I think it is a sin. Let me be crystal clear on this issue: NO. I do not believe sexual orientation is a choice. I do not believe you have a choice in the matter, just as one has no choice as to what color they will be or what blood type they will have. I also do not believe we should refrain from teaching the most accurate, compassionate and open-hearted curriculum in our schools to help support every child. It is true that my perspectives and language on LGBTQ issues have changed, as I have intentionally sat in spaces to learn and gain better understandings that will help me best serve our students, and our communities. In my answers to the SW Washington Blog, and some of my responses to the Stranger I made mistakes, however, I have shown true commitment to grow in my understandings of these issues.
My personal and professional life experiences and actions with the LGBTQ community are a mirror into who I am and have always been as a person. As a teacher, I worked to ensure that all my students felt safe and knew they were accepted and loved for who they were regardless of their sexual orientation. As a mother, I have two biological children, an adopted daughter who is biologically my niece, and two adopted children who were disowned by their families after “coming out”. These young people are not biologically mine, yet have adopted me as their surrogate mother who accepts and loves them for who they are. The thought of rejecting a child for being their authentic self makes my heart sick.
I am running for OSPI precisely because of my combined personal and professional experiences. These experiences have led me to serve for over 20 in classrooms and schools with some of the highest need, highest poverty, and most ethnically, culturally, and sexually diverse communities in our state. I am proud of my work and support for the rights of all people—and all children—regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity or economic status. I too recognize that I have work to do as a person and professional to align my language with my values. But I know my values, and they are strong, and fully manifest in my work, life, and commitment to the kids of our state.
~Erin
So what's my take?  Two things - confusion and readiness to be a candidate.

Confusion
What do I always say, readers? Words - have - meaning.

Jones states that she has two "adopted" children that she took in after their parents rejected them for their sexuality.  But she told The Stranger she took them in but they are not adopted.  When you are running as a candidate, what you say has to be what the truth is.

The issue is not the goodness of what she and her husband did for these teens; it's that she doesn't seem to get that saying she "adopted" them means a legal process and a different relationship.  I wrote to her today to ask for an interview for clarification and she said that they are "surrogate children."

Surrogate means substitute.  Do I think she means these teens are substitutes for her own children?  I don't.  I think what she meant is that she is their surrogate mom (but I can't be certain.)

She has to be clear and specific in her statements to the public and the press or there will be continue to be misunderstandings.

Also, if she has had such close dealings with LGBT teens, how could she be so unclear on her stands?

She also said this about her participation in leadership for a Christian high school youth group, Young Life, from 2006-2008. 
But Young Life remains a big presence in many public school districts. Jones stressed to The Stranger that different Young Life chapters had different perspectives on LGBTQ youth, and that she didn’t agree with them all. But she declined to clearly answer the specific, direct question The Stranger had posed, which was whether—like some Young Life members—Jones believes being gay is a sin.
“I am not Young Life in the way that other people are Young Life, just as I am not black in the way that other people are black,” Jones told The Stranger.
I find that latter statement confusing especially when she's being asked a direct question.

This confusion about words and their meaning also causes me to wonder - once again - about her stance on charter schools.  I don't want to see her elected and then find out that she meant something else than what she ran on and just didn't "align" her language properly.

Readiness
She said this:
I recognize and regret using overly equivocal wording on issues related to the LGBTQ community that has let friends and supporters down. I am apologetic that I used language that could be too easily interpreted as equivocal.
I have been asked over the course of this campaign if I think being LGBTQ is a choice and if I think it is a sin. Let me be crystal clear on this issue: NO. I do not believe sexual orientation is a choice. I do not believe you have a choice in the matter, just as one has no choice as to what color they will be or what blood type they will have.
But The Stranger says she refused to answer the question on whether being gay is a sin.  Why did she refuse? Was it that she didn't know at the time the question was asked what her answer was?  Was it personal belief?  That last one might be okay except for her leadership in Young Life.  That shows she was willing to take her beliefs out into the community. 

Both Confusion and Readiness:

And, in her statement today, she said:
I too recognize that I have work to do as a person and professional to align my language with my values.
Okay, we ALL have work to do on ourselves and, hopefully, we all never stop learning and evolving.  The problem for me is a candidate that is doing it as they are running for office.

As well, "align my language with my values?"

Those two points signal to me someone who is not just not ready to run for office, no less win.

29 comments:

Michael Muto said...

I disagree completely with your assessment of Erin and this situation. I think in this case you live in a bubble of people who speak very precisely to one another but fail to realize that others outside that perspective may not be as precise in their language. However their actions and lives speak much louder. You are objecting to her readiness over very nuanced and specific ways you expect someone to respond and missing the larger meaning of her work and life. Whereas Rykdal barely said anything and has even less experience in the trenches with kids who struggle on the margins whether kids of lower income, minorities or LGBT youth, I want someone who can identify and has a lived experience of advocacy over someone who just used specific language. Bringing up charter schools in the same post and tying them together with this issue is unfair and inaccurate as well. Erin is actually capable of
being in relationship and dialogue with those whom she disagrees. It's a very rare and lost art in our political climate and has sadly been used to tie her to positions she does not hold.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mr. Muto:

1) All of us live in a "bubble"of our professional lives. However, the public education world I am in is one that Jones is in and wants to be a bigger part of. I think, as a candidate, she needs to speak in a manner that the average person will understand. Nothing odd about that. Of course, all parts of a candidate's life and what it brings to their campaign are important. But you have to be able to go on what a person says during the campaign.

2) Reykdal (not Rykdal) has "barely said anything?" Is that about this issue or in general because, in general, he has said plenty and been at all the candidate forums.
As well, he grew up poor and has spoken about it so he does have that personal background to bring to office.

3) The charter school issue is one that has dogged Jones because of the contributions of several high-profile charter school supporters. That Jones is not clear on some things makes me wonder if she is being as clear as she could be on this issue.

I agree; Erin is very good at interaction and dialog. I think she is a bright, passionate person but I'm just not sure she is ready for office.

Anonymous said...

Erin's reply to ERW and to the Stranger is evasive. For ERW to pick Reykdal and for the Stranger to drop her like this is damning. They clearly did not like what they saw. Erin's open letter is still evasive (note that she still doesn't answer the "sin" question - she makes it look like she did but then she talks about choice). It should have been easy for her to get this right when she spoke to ERW and the Stranger reporter. Her original reply to the SW blogger was revealing.

This also blows her campaign strategy out of the water. Erin's plan was to rack up Republican support (she attended their Roanoke conference, is close to key Republican legislators, has the backing of Freedom Foundation leaders, has support from the charter industry and leading education reformers), get support from evangelical Christians, and also win over King County liberals.

It was a smart strategy that got her a clear win in the primary. But it was also a high-wire act. You can't keep a coalition like that together very easily. Her approach was to just tell everyone what they wanted to hear. The problem is you wind up contradicting yourself. So she told a social conservative she's not down with LGBTs but got everyone in Seattle to think she's an amazing social justice leader. She wasn't being honest with someone. Now it's come back to haunt her.

Spring Voter

Melissa Westbrook said...

Spring, I'm not sure I know enough to comment on what you have said. But it was interesting to read in the comments at The Stranger one person who said they knew Republicans in Eastern Washington were supporting her and this person would as well. I was not sure what to make of it.

NO 1240 said...

I don't trust Jones.

Jones testified in favor of the founding principal of Rainier Prep charter school. Yet, she did not feel it necessary to disclose this information on her King County Democrat questionnaire. Quite selective. Did she not think individuals deserved information about her past?

SSS blog reported this, too. The paragraph came from The Stranger

"When I followed up with you on charter schools, you acted quizzical about where anyone could have gotten the idea that you like them. But you briefly praised the region’s charter schools during our meeting, calling them “fabulous," then backtracked when another candidate objected: “Well, they would say they are fabulous.”
Jones testified in favor of Maggie O'Sullivan's appointment to Rainier Prep charter school."

So, Jones thinks charter schools are "fabulous".

As well, Monish Harrell gets it correct:

“We recognize that [Jones is] learning, but this person has to be on the job in just a few months,” said Monisha Harrell, chair of the ERW board. “The future of our kids is too important.”



Anonymous said...

I am the parent of a gender-fluid and queer child, and Jones' shakiness around issues of LGBTQ children disturbs me. Is she really going to do the right thing for my child? Or is she going to leave them in the dust out of her own ignorance and confusion?

Her "apologies" only leave me more worried. There's just not a lot of clarity, just even more murkiness.

She needs to make a clear, undeniable statement that my child, and other LGBTQ youth in this state, are not murky political talking points, but children of value that will not be discriminated against.

Until then, I can't find myself voting for Jones.

Concerned LGBTQ parent

Charlie Mas said...

"I think in this case you live in a bubble of people who speak very precisely to one another but fail to realize that others outside that perspective may not be as precise in their language."

When you are in a leadership role, precise speech is required because people take action based on what you say. They don't know what you mean; they only know what you say. If you're not saying what you mean or meaning what you say, you don't belong in a leadership role.

Also, when you are proficient with a topic, it is easy to be precise when speaking about it. Imprecise speech is a sign that the speaker is not familiar with the topic and a further sign that they should not be in the lead.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the concerns mentioned by others. I feel some in Seattle made assumptions about Erin. I can't speak to the majority of voters. However it has concerned me that some I spoke with don't know much about her. Yet some automatically align her as the best candidate to address achievement gap issues due to her skin color. Yes, people have told me that. They ignore or downplay statements she makes & are unaware or indifferent to other qualities and experiences in her background that are as important. I remain concerned about her true values & commitments particularly on charter schools & whether she will be a good champion for all children. She seems to tailor her responses quite a bit to her audience & can seem ambiguous. I personally prefer a strong clear transparent leader for our schools who is committed and champions policies to benefit all children regardless of sexual orientation, race, socio-economic status, gender etc.
-Marie

Melissa Westbrook said...

This story is still somewhat fluid as Jones continues to explain and explain at Facebook pages. I'll have some of those comments up.

Some have attacked The Stranger for bad journalism. I would submit that what they did - as journalists - is akin to what Jones did. They listened and read and evolved their thinking. They have rescinded endorsements before. Is it some egg on their faces? Sure but at least they admit it.

Whether or not voters care about the changes in Jones or The Stranger remains to be seen.

dorainseattle said...

I have seen Erin backtrack on many issues.

You can fool some of the people some of the time...

My interview with Erin reflects this same behavior on other subjects.

See https://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/an-interview-with-washington-state-superintendent-candidate-erin-jone/

Anonymous said...

Expectation of precise speech and politicians. I dunno folks. Blowhard Trump would trump and Hillary would tank by that standard. (Hillary is the saner one so she has my vote.) I don't rely on the Stranger as much as I used to for news coverage and election cheat sheet. They're good for entertainment and latest CH, and pro HALA stuff. Nowadays, I read through news, but verify at other sites. I apply this to the national news corps too (NYT, WAPO, etc.). I use alternet, vox, national review and across the pond news sites to cross check and look for opposing views. It's more work than my 15 minute break allow, so thank goodness for wifi in the washrooms ;)

Actions speak louder than words. That's probably where truth will out.

reader

Anonymous said...

My concern is also she did not rescind her comments on (not) teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity until the Stranger and later ERW called her on them.

Concerned on so many levels

Watching said...

The state and OSPI offer standards on this issue. See page 29:

http://www.swweducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/WA_State_HPE-Standards_2016.pdf

Yet, when asked about the issue of state standards, Jones pushes the discussion to the local school board (?):

"Draw your own conclusions regarding those who responded vs. those who chose not to
Share your thoughts on the topic with your local school board"

http://www.swweducation.org/?p=2751

At best, Jones does not offer a thoughtful or informed response. I don't believe this woman is ready for the office of SPI.

Po3 said...

Also concerned about Ms. Jones.

Pattern emerging that whenever she is called into question about a position she responds, "that was a mistake." I am wondering what are her positions on charter schools, LGBTQ curriculum and Younglife in our schools. I know what mine are and can't figure out if we are aligned or not. I almost get the feeling that her answers are based on what she thinks the particular audience wants to hear.


Eric B said...

The biggest concern for me is that when offered the chance to say that homosexuality is not a sin, Jones didn't take it. She answered other questions, but not that one. FWIW, an acceptable answer would also be that her personal religious beliefs don't matter, the applicable laws matter and she would uphold them.

I'm also confused by the "there's Young Life and Young Life, and I'm not like everyone who's in YL" statement (paraphrased by memory). Then what the heck does she believe?

Anonymous said...
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Unknown said...

Totally Dora. She always says these are smears, but they are her own words and actions. If they are smears, well she is doing a great job of smearing herself.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I hate when things like this become issues victimhood. No one attacked Jones. Issues have been raised based on what she has said. That she was unclear is on her. She's now trying to get clarity and yet there seems to be more confusion. I don't get it. I have consistently said she is bright and charismatic and no one can doubt her real concern for students.

But I don't think the middle of a campaign is where you start learning.

Watching said...

I am not comfortable with Jones involvement with YoungLife. This organization brings Christianity into our public schools. I've not seen other religious groups do the same. I don't want a SPI that encourages or promotes religion in schools. There are times when YoungLife representatives are in our schools during lunch time. One representative was following a student and trying to get the student to attend a YoungLife meeting. The individual went so far as to offer the student a ride. To me, this is highly inappropriate.

For many reasons, I don't believe she is ready for this office.





Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I'm very disappointed that there is a disdain for the First Amendment among commenters here. I know a number of Young Life staff and volunteers and am impressed by how they reach out in caring and fun ways to young people.

You may not agree with them, but they have the same right to talk to students as anyone else does. And I would be surprised if any of them used any coercion to do so. They show that they care about students whether or not the students choose to learn more about God's love.

In one high school I know, Young Life volunteers served as chaperones for dances when enough parents didn't step up to do so and regularly provided volunteers to help in the weight room and on the volleyball team, etc. That's probably happening all over the city. Look for the friendly, caring young people volunteering at the school. What do you have against that?

It's unseemly to show vitriol to people of a different religion or belief system than you. It's even worse to try to shut them down.

Christian Mom

Charlie Mas said...

Christian Mom, no one is denying or wishes to deny Young Life representatives a fair and equal chance to talk to students. The complaints above were for inappropriate efforts to engage students. People wrote that they are uncomfortable with some of the things that Young Life does. That's a long way from opposing the group's First Amendment rights. Surely you can distinguish the difference.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Good News? said...

Christian Mom's comment exemplifies the problem with religion in schools. Religion in schools polarizes communities. If you want religion- to to a place of worship.

Organizations such as the Good News Club seek to evangelize children and do so via peer to peer evangelism. Good News Club instructors are trained in peer to peer evangelism. This group seeks to undermine parental influence and religious preference.

It is problematic when an administrator welcomes -in a religious group because some have a tendency to turn a blind eye.

I imagine that one comment was removed because there was not a signature.

Anonymous said...

My comment above was in part directed to the 11:43 am comment which has been deleted.

I agree that no coercion regarding beliefs should be used with anyone, especially minors. However, some of the examples given above - eating lunch with students or even offering them a ride to an event - are not evidence of coercion. For example, I know a number of youth group staff from several churches who visit their students at school during lunch - after going through the district vetting of volunteers that is required.

Religion, beliefs, political ideas, etc. are a part of our students' lives and thinking and they should be able to discuss them freely - as they often do.

Christian Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Christian Mom, I think the law is that the district has to offer space after school to any group that wants to use it. I may not like some groups but I have no real problem with that.

But no one should be coming to a school and eating with children unless the school has asked for lunch monitors. Strangers affiliated with a group that meets in the school who are there to find kids to join should not be eating lunch with kids nor offering them rides anywhere. Now if the child is a member of that group and their parents say they can ride with an adult in that group, fine.

Kids can discuss anything they like but when non-teaching adults come into that discussion without a parent's knowledge in a public school, that may be an issue. It has nothing to do with the First Amendment and everything to do with a parent's right to know who is talking to their child and about what.

Watching said...

Erin Jones has angered The Stranger:

"To Us, Erin Jones Says She Made Mistakes. To Her Funders, She Says We Twisted Her Words.'


http://www.thestranger.com/slog/2016/09/01/24534955/to-us-erin-jones-says-she-made-mistakes-to-her-supporters-she-says-we-twisted-her-words

Charlie Mas said...

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