Dec. 12 update: The Upper Moreland School District put out a press release Monday afternoon announcing that board member Jennifer Solot would resign in January because of the controversy over her remarks at the previous week’s school board reorganization meeting. A copy of the district’s statement can be found here.
The Upper Moreland School Board on Wednesday rejected a candidate to be president of that body at least partly because the candidate was white and cisgender — meaning he does not identify as transgender — and elevating someone with those characteristics to the position of board president would run counter to the school district’s values, a board member said.
“I believe that Mr. [Greg] D’Elia would make an excellent president,” board member and treasurer Jennifer Solot said. “However, I feel that electing the only cis, white male president of the board of this district sends the wrong message to our community — a message that is contrary to what we as a board have been trying to accomplish.”
“I think it’s important that we practice what we preach, and that our words have strength when they are spoken, whether we speak them from the neighborhood sidewalks or from behind these tables,” Solot added.
The board then elected April Stainback on an 8–1 vote. D’Elia voted for himself.
Stainback and D’Elia were the only two persons nominated for board president. The board member who nominated D’Elia, who is unknown currently because they were not on camera when the nomination was made, ultimately did not vote for the candidate they nominated.
Some of the board members were obviously torn during the vote, as some of them like Rose Huber and Sarah Byrnes paused before declaring their choice. It’s not clear if the hesitation on those votes was strictly due to the diversity argument presented by Solot.
The board’s decision comes as school boards, organizations and corporations have shifted to directly hiring based off of race, gender and other identity characteristics, mainly as part of the national racial following the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis in 2020.
“[Companies] created new roles to steer diversity, equity, and inclusion, aiming to close the gap on race, gender, sexuality, and other underrepresented groups as it pertains to hiring or promotions,” a Fortune report from 2020 noted.
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But those efforts to diversify can sometimes be legally tricky.
“Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) programs are top of mind for employers as they aim to build better workplaces and attract the best talent in a tight labor market, but employers may unintentionally violate equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws as they seek to diversify their workforces and develop internal programs to promote fairness,” an article from the Society for Human Resource Management reported.
Requests for further comment from all nine of the board members have not been returned, but will be added if received.
Upper Moreland is based in Willow Grove in Montgomery County, and serves about 3,200 students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The district include Upper Dublin Township, Abington Township, and Upper Moreland Township.
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use his encrypted email at email@example.com. @shepherdreports