Teachers union halts support for LAUSD candidate, citing offensive social media activity

The influential Los Angeles teachers union has suspended its campaign on behalf of school board candidate Kahllid Al-Alim amid rising criticism over his social media posts and likes that expressed antisemitism, glamorized guns and celebrated pornographic images, officials announced early Friday morning.

United Teachers Los Angeles acted after an emergency leadership meeting Thursday night. The suspension represents a blow to Al-Alim’s campaign for the District 1 Board of Education seat that represents much of South Los Angeles and southwest L.A. The teachers union has poured more than $650,000 into an independent campaign supporting Al-Alim and had organized field workers on his behalf.

“Upon becoming aware of the offensive and antisemitic content on Kahllid Al-Alim’s social media pages, UTLA called an emergency meeting of its Board of Directors,” a union statement said. The directors “voted to immediately suspend any campaign activities in Board District 1.”

A post on X that drew particular criticism was Al-Alim‘s praise of an antisemitic publication from the Nation of Islam organization titled: “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews: How Jews gained control of the Black American economy.” In an October 2022 post, Al-Alim said the book should be mandatory reading in L.A. schools: “We not Burning or Banning Our Future! We Not Playing,” he tweeted.

In a statement Tuesday, Al-Alim, 56, acknowledged all or most of the social media posts and likes, for which he expressed regret.

“I have spent my life fighting against antisemitism, anti-Arab hate, Islamophobia, and all forms of oppression,” Al-Alim said. “I have spent my life fighting for the equality of all people.” He also appeared to acknowledge the pornographic and gun-related likes, adding: “I also apologize for my likes on social media of graphic content. It was inappropriate. I will never do that again.”

Al-Alim emerged with UTLA’s endorsement after a months-long process. He already was well known to many union leaders as an energetic education and community activist who could be relied on to side with the union on policy matters, including opposition to charter school expansion.

Like other District 1 candidates, he especially advocated for Black students. Unlike some, he supports the union’s call to eliminate the school Police Department. Al-Alim was a founding member of Reclaim Our Schools L.A., a coalition of parents, students, educators and labor and community organizations closely allied with UTLA.

UTLA leaders did not rescind the endorsement; they concluded that union rules require a formal multi-step process that will be expedited, but will take days, brushing up against the March 5 primary.

On Tuesday, the union will convene in person its 100-member expanded endorsement team. The next day there will be area meetings across the vast school system. Thursday, the union’s Political Action Council of Educators, a body that is especially focused on politics, will meet.

The following Monday, March 4, the Board of Directors, a 50-member body, will gather on Zoom from 5 to 6 p.m. Then will follow the House of Representatives meeting, also by Zoom.

Withdrawing an endorsement requires a vote by the union’s 250-member House, which has the authority to rescind the endorsement.

After weeks of union-financed campaigning and mail-in balloting already underway, Al-Alim still could make it into the runoff. His own campaign had raised $24,302 as of the last reporting period.

Based on campaign spending totals, another leading candidate would be educator Didi Watts, whom the union seems unlikely to support because a substantial portion of her career has been associated with charter schools.

Before Al-Alim’s problems arose, this race looked like a classic high-cost face-off between a teachers-union-backed candidate and one backed by allies of charter schools, which also are public schools, though they are privately managed.

In the seven-candidate field, however, there are others who could carry the teachers union banner, or make a strong showing on their own if they are able to get their message out.

Teachers union support won’t reach other candidates in time to help push them into the November runoff between the top two finishers.

The next largest independent funding effort is $280,515 on behalf of Watts, by a Sacramento-based political action committee called Kids First. The contributors to this campaign are shielded from immediate disclosure because they did not contribute directly to the campaign on Watts’ behalf.

The L.A. County Federation of Labor also has endorsed Al-Alim. The organization had not responded as of late Thursday about whether it would withdraw its endorsement.

Original News Source Link – LA Times

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