Board candidate Campos isn’t afraid to ‘go against the grain’

Daniel Garepis-Holland, Senior Staff Writer

Ingrid Campos poses for her official campaign portrait. She is one of four candidates running for the two open Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education seats, and emphasizes her experience as a parent and civic advocate. “I feel that my experience having my kids in the school district is what qualifies me,” Campos said. “[I’m] very attentive to my children and also have a civic-minded perspective focus in my life.” (Photo: Ingrid Campos)

Local parent Ingrid Campos is running for one of two open seats on the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education, promising to listen to district parents and challenge current ideas while promoting family values.

In a series of September phone interviews with The Paly Voice, Campos emphasized the disconnect she feels exists between the values of local families and the school board, which she says is manifested by a failure of the board in responding effectively to community members’ concerns.

“A lot of parents and teachers believe that they’re not being heard,” Campos said. “Specifically with regard to the board, a lot of parents and teachers say they send emails, questions, and requests and they’re not being answered.”

In addition, Campos says her unique experience as a parent of students who have grown up in the district gives her important knowledge. None of the other candidates in the race have children who are in middle or high school.

“Having had my children in the school district, I believe that I could offer and impart my wisdom and my experience,” Campos said. “I expect my children to thrive and have an excellent education.”

According to Campos, one concern raised by parents she has met with is library books about LGBTQ+ identities or including queer characters.

“Some parents … are not happy with the readily available and accessible and openly public LGBTQ books that are starting to pop up in the library,” Campos told Verde Magazine in September.

In response to comments of this nature from Campos, community members have circulated a flyer on local social media advertising a “community rally” at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Palo Alto City Hall to “stand up for our LGBTQ+ community”  against a candidate for PAUSD school board who had advocated for book banning in furtherance of traditional family values, a likely reference to Campos’ disagreement with LGBTQ+ books in school libraries.

Some Palo Alto Online readers have raised concerns over some of Campos’ social media posts, which spread false information about the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jan. 6 insurrection, and the 2020 election. According to this article by Palo Alto Online’s Zoe Morgan, Campos reposted a video about COVID-19 that claims “viruses are fictional, make-believe organisms,” as well as posts that seem to question the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. 

In response, Campos told the Voice that these are personal viewpoints that have no bearing on the race for the school board, and that many in the community are afraid to hear differing viewpoints.

“My viewpoints are irrelevant,” Campos said. “What is important is to examine all the facts. I don’t have a problem with going against the grain.”

Later, responding to a question about how her differing viewpoints might impact her relationship with other board members, Campos said, “The school board definitely wants someone who thinks and acts like them.”

Student stress is a hot issue in the current board campaign and has been earmarked as a priority by candidates Shounak Dharap, Nicole Chiu-Wang, and Shana Seagal. However, Campos says district policy will not be able to solve the stress issue, which she feels originates from home, referencing what she called “dragon mothers”.

“When I talk to parents, they tell me that [stress is] cultural, that it’s part of family values,” Campos said. “Have you ever heard of the ‘dragon mother’? So what can the school system do other than support the child?” 

Campos also said how students feel that school solutions to student stress, such as secondary school counselors, are largely ineffective.

“What I hear from my teenagers and their friends is that nobody trusts the school counselors; they don’t wanna talk to them, or they feel that their problems are so overwhelming,” Campos said. 

One solution that has been introduced in many school districts, including Palo Alto Unified, is “social-emotional learning” curricula and lessons, where students learn how to develop their identities and show empathy for others, manage emotions, and make responsible decision. This has been implemented at Paly at the past in the form of education on healthy relationships, as reported by Verde Magazine. 

Campos said that SEL is something that should take place at home, and that it can be a burden for teachers.

“A lot of social, emotional learning is going on at home,” Campos said. “That’s part of going back to the family and the family values. And some teachers look at it as a burden — ‘How am I supposed to be responsible for a child’s social and emotional wellbeing?’”

She also raised concerns that SEL classes are taking away from “academic excellence” and are straying away from their original purpose. 

“I think resources should be spent on academic excellence,” Campos said. “It [SEL curriculum] is really new and it’s coming about and I feel a little bit leery about it and hesitant, and I want to watch [over] it because I think other things are being slipped in under the guise of social emotional learning.”

Another issue raised by other candidates is improving equity in the district among different racial, gender and income groups. Campos is worried that what she calls “race-based grading” might be introduced in PAUSD. 

“There is a trend that is starting to cross the nation that grading should be based on race and ethnicity,” Campos said. “I think there’s a problem with that. I think grading in any department should be based on merit, on how well you do.”

The Voice failed to find any evidence of grading based on race having been proposed in any American school district — despite false social media posts that claim it was to be introduced in an Illinois high school.

Finally, Campos wants to ensure that students do not experience stigma for opting out of sex education, which is included in the mandatory Living Skills curriculum.

“I’ve heard from other parents that they’re against some of the explicit sexual education curriculum,” Campos said. “I always tell parents, you can opt out of that, [such as] very religious families — it is forbidden in the Muslim faith to talk about sex. [Students] want to make sure that they’re not going to be humiliated or punished — what I’ve heard is that they’re afraid their children won’t get recommendations from teachers.”