POLITICS

Sunnyside School District Denounces Anti-Gay Flyers Targeting Daniel Hernandez

08/30/2013 05:34 pm ET | Updated Aug 31, 2013
AP

WASHINGTON -- What started as a small, local school board fight in Tucson, Ariz., turned into a national story this week, with the emergence of anti-gay flyers targeting one of the board's members -- who happens to be the man who helped save the life of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) in 2011.

Now, to put an end to the finger-pointing and negative attention, the Sunnyside School District has put out a statement disavowing and condemning the smear campaign targeting Daniel Hernandez, Jr., saying that none of the other board members or school administrators are behind the flyers.

"We want to go on record saying that neither we nor any administrator or Board Member with whom we have spoken knows who is responsible for preparing or distributing the flyers," said the district's statement, sent to reporters on Friday afternoon. "Everyone with whom we have spoken feels that the flyers are shameful. This kind of bigotry has no place in our society or our district."

The five-member Sunnyside School Board has been divided over whether to support superintendent Manuel Isquierdo, who has had numerous legal and financial issues.

Community members recently launched a recall effort against two Isquierdo supporters, board president Louie Gonzales and board member Bobby Garcia. Last week, supporters of Gonzales began a retaliatory recall effort against Hernandez and another member.

But flyers passed around to constituents went after Hernandez for being gay.

"Put a REAL Man on the Sunnyside Board," read one flyer, with a picture of Hernandez speaking at an Equality Forum event. "Daniel Hernandez is LGBT. We need someone who will support Sports and cares about our kids. We don't need someone who hates our values. RECALL Daniel Hernandez TODAY."

Both Gonzales and Garcia had earlier denied any connection to the flyers, as did the leader of the Hernandez recall effort, who is also Gonzales' campaign manager. Gonzales even suggested to The Huffington Post that Hernandez had created the flyers himself, in a bit of subterfuge.

Hernandez's opponents need to collect 1,300 signatures by Dec. 14 to get the recall vote on the ballot.

On Tuesday, Giffords tweeted a message of support for Hernandez, writing, "Daniel Hernandez (@djblp) is #ArizonaStrong. He helped save my life. We all benefit from his courage & strength. #StandWithDaniel."

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a graduate of Sunnyside, also called on the Pima County Attorney’s office to investigate the smear campaign.

"The Sunnyside Unified School District Governing Board, who are all members of the Sunnyside community, represent and respect the diversity of the community we serve," the district wrote in its Friday statement. "A direct attack on a person’s character because of their sexual orientation disrupts our communities and creates an environment of intolerance. This district does not tolerate the offense of any persons because of their race, age, disability, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, economic status, national origin, and where applicable, political beliefs. This district supports diversity in our schools, among our employees and on our Governing Board."

Read the full statement below:

Sunnyside Unified School District Response to Flyers Criticizing Board Member Daniel Hernandez, Jr.

August 30, 2013. Sunnyside Unified School District has the following response to the criticism surrounding the negative flyers and subsequent accusations that the district and its Board Members have played a role in creating or distributing them.

This week the media posted online flyers produced by someone who took aim against the district and the community we represent. These flyers criticize Board member Daniel Hernandez, Jr. in a particularly mean spirited and blatantly bigoted manner. The role of a board member is one that our community’s children should hold in the highest respect. We hope our students will aspire to emulate such a community volunteer and become board members themselves when they are adults.

Though the students Sunnyside Unified School District serves are primarily Latino, our community is a very diverse community. We are not only proud of our community’s diversity but we are outspoken about our acceptance of all its cultures which the district has been very proactive in supporting. We were the first district to speak out against S.B. 1070. and we have been very outspoken in supporting DACA, which allows undocumented students to remain in our schools and in this country. We also have had a strong voice of disapproval for the State mandated 4-hour ELL model that segregates students based on language acquisition.

The Sunnyside Unified School District Governing Board, who are all members of the Sunnyside community, represent and respect the diversity of the community we serve. A direct attack on a person’s character because of their sexual orientation disrupts our communities and creates an environment of intolerance. This district does not tolerate the offense of any persons because of their race, age, disability, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, economic status, national origin, and where applicable, political beliefs. This district supports diversity in our schools, among our employees and on our Governing Board. We assure you as the leadership of this district, that no board member had anything to do with the preparation or the distribution of the flyers.

The Sunnyside Unified School District faces many challenges and these unconscionable attacks distract from what should be the district’s focus: our students. We want to go on record saying that neither we nor any administrator or Board Member with whom we have spoken knows who is responsible for preparing or distributing the flyers. Everyone with whom we have spoken feels that the flyers are shameful. This kind of bigotry has no place in our society or our district. We encourage our staff and community to use this situation as an important teachable moment, so that we can help our students understand that our world is diverse and every human begin has value and importance.

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