On Thursday night (Jan 17, 2019), the Orleans Parish School Board surprised many by voting unanimously to suspend the rules and leave John A. Brown Sr. in the position of board president.
The vote followed heavy lobbying by LGBTQ and other groups against Leslie Ellison after video surfaced of Ellison testifying against anti-discrimination protection for LGBTQ students. Ellison, who held the position of vice president for the last four years, has long been considered the frontrunner for the position of board president when Brown’s term ended.
Earlier on Thursday, the Independent Women’s Organization issued a letter urging OPSB members to vote against Ellison as president.
“No one with Ms. Ellison’s long history of anti-LGBTQ beliefs and testimony before Louisiana legislative committees should be elected to such an important leadership role,” the group said.
A long list of commenters took to the podium before the vote, including several students. The overwhelming majority of comments called for the board to vote against Ellison, though there were a few supporters. Many of those who spoke in support of Ellison cited personal relationships with her, referring to her has a kind, fair, and caring person, while those who spoke against her spoke of her anti-LGBT record.
Amelia Karrigan, Orleans Parish student quoted the OPSB website’s vision statement (every student receives a high-quality education that fosters his or her individual capabilities while ensuring that they thrive and are prepared for civic, social, and economic success) before saying, “Leslie Ellison is not for every child. I find it alarming that Leslie Ellison has been allowed to remain on the school board for this amount of time. … Please do not support a candidate who cannot support every child.”
Amelia Karrigan, Orleans Parish student quoted the OPSB website before saying, “Leslie Ellison is not for every child. I find it alarming that Leslie Ellison has been allowed to remain on the school board for this amount of time. … Please do not support a candidate who cannot support every child.”
Many LGBT+ students, parents, and advocate groups even went as far as to call for Leslie Ellison’s removal from the board entirely.
Raphael Santoyo, a career special education students within the Orleans Parish School System cited many of the reactions students have had when experiencing trauma. “If elected Ellison will create an environment where LGBTQIA students will constantly live in terror,” Santoyo said emphatically. “Every day would be a walking nightmare.”
In the end, the OPSB voted unanimously to leave John A. Brown, Sr. as president and voted 4-3 to leave Leslie Ellison as vice president. Surprisingly, Ethan Ashley, who works at the New Orleans office of the Anti-Defamation League, was one of the votes allowing Ellison to remain as Vice President. The Anti-Defamation League was one of the first groups to speak against Ellison.
Upon hearing the news, the gathered crowd erupted with dismay, with several taking up the chant, “erase the board.”
Jenn Bentley is a writer and editor originally from Cadiz, Kentucky. Her writing has been featured in publications such as The Examiner, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, and others. When she’s not writing or editing, Jenn spends her time raising money for Extra Life and advocating for autism awareness.