What follows is a letter to constituents in the Hacienda – La Puente School District near Los Angeles where Jay Chen is president of the school board. In that capacity, along with the other four members of the board, he’s being confronted with a recall effort because some members of his community are suspicious of the Mandarin Chinese program he voted to implement in the district’s middle school.
A few months ago I introduced a resolution that made our district the first in the nation to recognize Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution. I am proud that we encourage students to learn about the courageous civil rights hero who fought against war-time hysteria and the race-based persecution of Japanese-Americans. I was honored to be invited to speak at Los Altos High School on the importance of Mr. Korematsu and his legacy, an event that was covered by NBC Los Angeles. It is critical that students learn about this dark time in U.S. history, so that we can prevent such xenophobia in the future.
Congressman Peter King’s controversial hearings on the “radicalization” of the Muslim American community is evidence that we have a ways to go in that regard. As you may have heard, similar suspicions surfaced in my school district last year regarding an introductory Chinese language class at Cedarlane Middle School that a small group of opponents (none of whom are parents) have labeled Communist brainwashing. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart interviewed me and the opponents last year, putting their claims in a comedic spotlight.
Since that time, media attention has grown. Last month, the BBC released a documentary on China, with a segment on Cedarlane and my unsuccessful effort to reason with opponents. A few weeks ago La Opinión, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States, highlighted our decision to bring Chinese language classes to the predominately Latino students of Cedarlane, and gave me the title “defensor de la pluralidad lingüística.”
Last week the Harvard Kennedy School’s Asian American Policy Review published my extensive explication of the issue. While the media coverage has raised popular support for our program, it has not deterred opponents from stepping up their attacks. They recently began a recall campaign against me, even though my current term expires at the end of the year, and a special election would likely cost the district more than $500,000 in funds better spent in the classroom. It is unfortunate that they have escalated their animosities to such levels, but I will not allow them to deter me from the important work we are doing for the students of Hacienda-La Puente Unified.
However, I do need your help to fight this recall. Please sign the petition against the recall, and consider coming to a board meeting to speak or listen. It will take significant resources to get our message out to ensure that voters are not misled by the recall campaign.
President Hacienda Heights – La Puente School Board
If you support the work that Jay Chen has been doing, whether it is free SAT classes, free college application reviews, or expanded foreign language opportunities, please make a contribution so he can fight the recall and continue this important work for the community. Any amount, whether $25 or $50 or $100, would make an enormous difference.