Check out Palo Alto Online's Board of Education Voter Guide for comparisons of all four candidates' views on mental health, communication, academic access and diversity.
Ingrid Campos is running for a seat on the Palo Alto school board with what she describes as a focus on parents' rights in education. Throughout the campaign, she has pushed for book banning in schools, described being LGBTQ as a "deviant lifestyle" and opposed what she believes constitutes Critical Race Theory being taught in Palo Alto schools.
Campos has said that one of her primary reasons for running is her strong sense of "traditional family values" and her belief that parents need to understand that they can have a say in what their kids are learning — or not learning.
She has two children who went to Lucille M. Nixon Elementary School and Ellen Fletcher Middle School and are now attending Gunn High School. Her professional background is as a business administration specialist, including working for 12 years handling the financial side of a construction remodeling company that she owned with her husband, Campos said.
A theme that Campos has stressed multiple times is that parents need to be vigilant about what is being taught in schools. In an Aug. 29 blog post on her campaign website, she called to ban books from the publisher Scholastic from Palo Alto Unified campuses because they publish "deviant literature" having to do with being LGBTQ, which she calls "a sexual preference lifestyle" that children and youth do not need to know about.
In an endorsement interview with the Palo Alto Weekly, Campos reiterated that she favors banning Scholastic's book fairs and at least some of their books from schools because they are publishing "garbage." "I don't know why this sort of pornographic perversion has come into the schools all of a sudden," Campos said in an answer to a question about books with LGBTQ characters.
When it came to exerting her parental rights, she wrote on her campaign website that she objected to her daughter reading "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You" in eighth grade. The book, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, traces the path of racist ideas throughout American history and was on the American Library Association's list of the top 10 most frequently challenged books in 2020.
Campos described it as the "epitome" of Critical Race Theory and said that she told the school it is a "garbage racist book." Critical Race Theory formally refers to the academic study of how racism is embedded into legal and social structures but has been frequently used by conservatives in recent years to describe a wide range of content that references race and racism. As a result of Campos' action, her daughter was given other history materials to read.
It's not just teachings about race that Campos views unfavorably; she also finds it "divisive" to factor in race when setting educational goals. When it comes to trying to close gaps in student achievement, Campos says that economic status, not race, should be used. (Various metrics, both in Palo Alto Unified and throughout the country, show persistent gaps by race in students' academic success.)
Instead, she said, programs aimed at improving achievement should treat students as "individuals." She favors free tutoring for struggling students, including peer tutoring, to bolster students' understanding and also believes expanded child care offerings would be impactful.
When asked in a Palo Alto Weekly questionnaire how she would make sure students and staff feel safe and included, regardless of factors like race, gender, sexuality and income, Campos questioned the premise of the question. She said that her children didn't know what racism was until it was introduced to them at school.
"It is extremely important that the first and foremost steps that the district should take is to include the parents of students in any and all dialogues in any of the abovementioned factors should they arise amongst students or staff," Campos wrote.
Pushing for advanced classes and extra tutoring
When it comes to curriculum, Campos favors offering multiple levels of math to a given grade so that higher achieving students can move ahead, rather than having students at various academic levels learn together in the same classroom.
In a candidate forum hosted by the Palo Alto Weekly, Campos opposed the suggestion in the California Math Framework draft to delay Algebra I until high school, instead saying that she would support offering Algebra "early on in middle school." Currently, Palo Alto students generally take it in eighth grade.
Campos is in favor of the district's current homework policy, which sets maximum amounts of homework that students should receive each night. According to Campos, her children's peers in other school districts are generally under more stress than kids experience in Palo Alto.
As for the district's efforts to expand mental health services and hire its own therapists, rather than relying on contracts with outside agencies, Campos said that she hears that many students don't trust the school's counselors. She also suggested at the Weekly's forum that students' mental health challenges could stem from whether parents are imparting family values at home.
Campos has spoken positively about Superintendent Don Austin's performance, praising his communication and stating that he has always been very accessible when she reached out with concerns, which were many during the COVID-19 school closures, she said.
"His communication and his open and accessible style makes it very easy to talk to him about concerns, hopes, dreams, laments and anything else really," Campos wrote in a questionnaire. When asked during the Weekly's endorsement interview about other parents who've felt Austin can be dismissive, she attributed that perception to his "businesslike" style.
Campos has said that she believes the real issue with communication lies with the school board not listening to parents and teachers. If elected, she said that she would want to act as a bridge between the various stakeholders in the school district.
At the Weekly forum, Campos was the only candidate who criticized how the school board handled terminating its top lawyer in August. The board voted to remove its general counsel in a four-minute, closed door meeting and failed to provide the public with any context for its action. Campos said that she believes taxpayers have a right to know why the decision was made.
Campos has come under scrutiny for various social media posts that spread false or misleading information, including a Twitter post that appears to refer to Joe Biden's presidency as a "coup complete." In an August interview with the Weekly, Campos wouldn't say whether she believes Biden legitimately won the 2020 election, despite that fact being widely established.
She also shared a video on Facebook about COVID-19 that claims "viruses are fictional, make-believe organisms."