The Canby School Board at its most recent meeting declined to investigate six formal complaints filed with the district — four against one of its members, Stefani Carlson, and two against Superintendent Trip Goodall, one of which had been submitted by Carlson herself.
The school board discussed the complaints during a lengthy executive session that followed the regular portion of the meeting on Feb. 4. After more than two hours, the board re-entered open session around 11:10 p.m. and voted not to launch an investigation into any of the six complaints. The votes were all unanimous, with Carlson abstaining from each.
The board is scheduled to revisit the complaints for further discussion and possible action at its next meeting on March 4.
The six complaints, which were provided to The Canby Current pursuant to a public records request, all concern a Jan. 5 social media post that appeared to endorse politically motivated violence in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s unproven claims of voter fraud in last November’s election.
The post — which appeared to condone lethal force against the person’s perceived political opponents and also used language such as “communist, China-owned douchebag leftard” — was not Carlson’s, but she replied to it saying, “Read your comment aloud and everyone in my house loves everything you say.”
At the time, the original poster — who is also a Canby resident and military veteran — had shared several other threatening posts, including two gifs from the beginning of the 1993 Michael Douglas film Falling Down, in which the main character goes on a deadly rampage after experiencing a series of wrongs, inconveniences and societal abuses.
Carlson later said in a statement to The Canby Current that she does not endorse violence of any kind and that her apparent support of his post “was directed at what I perceived to be his question about constitutional authority, not his exact choice of words.”
Last month, Superintendent Trip Goodall responded to the Current‘s request for comment with a statement of his own, in which he said Carlson’s “apparent comment of support … strays far from the intent” of the district’s established civility policy.
The four complaints against Carlson are from parents, district employees and community members expressing concern about Carlson’s original comment on the post, and in one case, other comments the first-term board member has made on social media and in public. Three of the four requested that she step down or be removed from her position.
Jim and Darlene Gadberry wrote in their Jan. 19 emailed complaint that they believed Carlson’s comments were “very inappropriate” for a member of the school board.
“We believe she has violated the School District Civility Policy and additionally, the OSBA (Oregon School Board Association) ethics standards for School Board members,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, the only resolution to this public situation is for Ms. Carlson to resign immediately.”
Melodyjoy Dawley, parent of an elementary school student as well as a district school psychologist, noted the context of the original post and Carlson’s response.
“These comments were made last Tuesday, the day before an insurrection that could have cost us our democracy as a nation,” she wrote on Jan. 12. “People lost their lives and students in our district were left with honest questions and fears for the safety of their nation.”
Dawley said she believes certain roles, such as those that are in service to the public, carry the responsibility to “honor the various perspectives of the people you serve.”
“We, as community leaders, have an obligation to ensure that what we communicate publicly honors all perspectives that may exist in our community,” she said. “The perspective that this board member publicly celebrated is not representative of our community and a comment like this being celebrated by someone in leadership is deeply concerning and dangerous to me.”
District parent Sara Fender expressed similar concerns.
“I recognize that board members can express their personal opinions in public if they clearly state they are doing so,” Fender wrote on Jan. 14. “However, I have witnessed Stefani represent her personal opinions in public via public comment at a city council meeting, written comments on her personal profile, other’s profiles, and community pages on social media, and at school board meetings.
“Through this growing body of examples, I am concerned that Stefani’s biases are impeding her ability to serve in the capacity in which she is required as a school board member.”
Fender, who did not call on Carlson to resign, instead asked that she “reflect on her ability and/or willingness to hold the position in which she was elected for a public school district.”
Finally, Sara Love, a teacher at the district’s Ninety-One School in Hubbard, said Carlson’s behavior fell short of how she believes an elected official should conduct themselves in public.
“I am dismayed that a school board member, who was elected to serve all members of the community, would publicly condone violence against those with differing viewpoints,” she said. “In a civil society, there is room for a wide spectrum of views and beliefs. However, there is never room for calls to violence and using derogatory language toward people who believe differently. That is unacceptable and must be dealt with.”
The two complaints against Goodall concern the statement he made in response to Carlson’s comment. The first was filed Jan. 27 by Kevin Starrett, director of the gun-rights group Oregon Firearms Federation and longtime Canby resident.
Starrett’s complaint, which immediately strikes a bitter, fanatical tone that is typical of his writing, describes Goodall’s statement as an “outrageous and unprofessional attack,” as well as “presumptuous and arrogant” and “malicious and self serving.”
Goodall drew Starrett’s ire for condemning Carlson’s apparent support of violence in the Facebook post, while not similarly criticizing the months of racial justice protests in left-leaning cities like Portland last year.
These demonstrations were often followed by violence and, sometimes, property destruction in parts of the city, and numerous police officers, as well as demonstrators, were injured. As far as we know, no Canby School Board members took part in or condoned the “years of leftist violence visited on our cities” described by Starrett.
“Goodall’s vicious and self serving attack is directly from the playbook of the Marxists whose violent behavior Goodall so conveniently overlooks while making reference to ‘events in our capital,'” Starrett wrote.
“Let’s end the charade now. Goodall’s mean spirited and cowardly attack on Board Member Carlson was the product of his personal political animus, his fear of having his craven and partisan agenda exposed and his determination to continue to cover up his failures and intention to keep our schools closed despite the critical needs of the children he pretends to serve.”
Starrett described Carlson, on the other hand, as “a person of outstanding integrity and character, a valued member of our community and committed to the children of the district in a way to which frauds like Goodall could never even hope to aspire.”
“Her only media attention were contemptuous and disgusting smear pieces launched against her as a result of her courageous statements in defense of the dignity and safety of Canby students in the face of the radical left’s efforts to force young people into dangerous and demeaning situations,” he wrote. “That kind of support is something even Goodall should recognize.”
Carlson’s far more measured response on Jan. 30 expressed her belief that Goodall’s statement impugned her character and was “erroneous.” She also questioned why he did not discuss his concerns with her directly before sharing the statement with the press, which she said School Board Chair Angi Dilkes directed him to do.
“Superintendent Goodall insinuated in his statement that I agreed with a ‘call to violence,'” she wrote. “This is insulting, disrespectful, and absolutely false. As the District’s Chief Executive Officer, it is irresponsible to gather information derived from the interpretation of a social media post solely to publicly defame me without even the common courtesy of reaching out to me.”
She reiterated that she agreed with the Facebook post’s “line of the questioning,” not the commenter’s choice of verbiage.
“How shameful that my agreeing with a valid question has led to this denigration,” she wrote. “I would never endorse the violence that happened in Washington, just like I would never advocate the continued violence on the streets of Portland and other cities over the past ten months. Any insinuation to this is absurd and repulsive.”
The statement, which she framed as an “attack” on her character, was “derogatory and grossly disrespectful,” she said.
“He should have come to me first as the board chair directed him to,” she said. “I would never treat him with the same disrespect he showed me. His apparent intent of publicly tarnishing my name shows little esteem toward his superiors. The superintendent works for the board, not the other way around. I would never treat my boss with the contempt he has displayed.”
The superintendent’s statement caused “irreparable damage” to her reputation, Carlson said.
“I am calling for, at minimum, a public apology for his actions,” she said.
The six complaints will be revisited in another executive session by the school board at its next meeting March 4. Further action, if any, will be decided in open session.