OUSD District 7 race not over yet: Spearman files legal challenge

Staff PhotojournalistStaff Photojournalist

As promised, Alice Spearman’s attorney has filed a motion to declare James Harris, the candidate who beat her on Election Day, ineligible for the seat.

“I’m going to do what I said I was going to do,” Spearman told me last week.

The motion, filed Tuesday, essentially makes the same case as the pre-election challenge: Harris might be an Oakland resident, living in City Council District 7, but his neighborhood is part of the San Leandro Unified School District.

Harris votes for City Council District 7, but for a San Leandro school board representative. He wasn’t able to vote in his own race.

A hearing has been set for Dec. 19. It’s an unusual circumstance, as the Oakland City Charter says the seven districts for city council and schools must be identical.

Spearman’s attorney, Marc Guillory, said he has issued subpoenas to people in the San Leandro school district, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, and the Alameda County Treasurer’s office.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • J.R.

    If ya can’t be ’em, sue ’em! Where there is money………

  • Darren Makwangwala

    weak sauce. challenging the results of a race you lost based solely on a technicality is shameful.

  • Observer

    I wish it wasn’t so–Spearman has made quite a few comments that tell me she does not serve ALL the children of Oakland, only African American children, not mixed, not white but also not Hispanic nor Asian neither. And she’s blatantly anti-gay. But, she’s right; he does not reside in in the Oakland Unified School District.

  • 1day at a time

    If the man isnt in OUSD territory and cant vote for himself, why was allowed to run in the first place?

    @ Observer – the only thing that matters is whether she represents the interests of her district. Personal attacks on her character and beliefs seem vindictive. Youve essentially called her a racist homophobe.

    Come on, people.

  • Ethan Brady

    Well, she represents her district and also bumps people in it…
    Check 1’55 in this video

    This is the low bar that allows these politicians and Smith and Friends to remain in their positions. Everything is cool.

  • 1day at a time

    video recap:

    School slated for closure. Spearman goes to school to address topic.

    Spearman: “Why would you not put in a simple class like P.E.?”
    School: no answer shown.

    A teacher approaches Spearman, yells at her, demands she stop speaking, yells some more. Crowd applauds approvingly.

    Later Spearman walks by with hands behind her back and bumps into the young man on her way out….

    “She assaulted me!!!”
    “What are you teaching the kids!!!”

    So, the school was never answered why it had previously failed to offer PE.
    The crowd approved of the yelling (at a senior, no less) and disrespect by the teacher. They applauded. But there’s moral outrage at her brushing against a guy 30 years her junior. Love the selective morality.

    Another teacher said, “For you to come here and try to shame us, and tell us that we’re doing a disservice to our students is criminal.”

    This is the first time I have ever heard someone in Oakland Unified saying (or responding to someone saying) that schools and teachers are doing a disservice to the kids. I didn’t know district officials were capable of such brutal honesty. The current OUSD people would rather play games with numbers to justify their decisions. Just tell people, “We’re closing your school down because your kids aren’t being served. Period. You failed them and we want to do better.”

    Let the legal fight play out. If Harris is ineligible, he’s ineligible. Move on. If the courts find in his favor, so be it. But why the sideshow.

  • Jim Mordecai


    Based on my viewing of the bumping incident this charge that Board Member did some terrible thing is complete distortion attempting to pull down the image of Board Member Spearman.

    The young man in the video was in a hostile crowd and appeared to be blocking the way for Board Member Spearman to leave. This younger man would have been guilty of a crime if he was trying to prevent her from leaving the meeting.

    The hostility of some in the crowded meeting over there school being closed was demonstrated when some were yelling out to size the microphone Alice Spearman had in her hand when speaking to the audience.

    Did Alice’s straight talk on the closing of their school being the audience‚Äôs responsibility add fuel to the anger of those attending the meeting? I believe so.

    But, as I viewed video of the meeting, the charge that Alice Spearman bumped into a person in the meeting audience, and assaulted them, is a complete distortion of the context of what happened.

    Someone questionned on the video the lesson children could learn from this incident. The video of this meeting might show children that bravery in speaking one’s truth should be admired (I admire that about Board Member Spearman), but also children should be cautioned that speaking one’s truth should be weighed against the wisdom of speaking that truth in a specific time and place.

    Unfortunately, too many political leaders try to avoid speaking a truth the majority does not want to hear. For those like me that want all views expressed at meetings; and including the view that may be unpopular, we will miss the voice of Alice Spearman on the Oakland School Board.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Fact check

    Not only did James Harris NOT see his own race for District 7 oakland school board on his own ballot, but because he does not reside in the Oakland Unified School District, he wasnt able to see or vote for Oakland’s Measure J on his ballot. This was the 475 million oakland schools measure. Residents of Sheffield Village do not vote for oakland school board seats or school ballot measures. Who in oakland made the mistake of letting him be a candidate when it’s clear he is a resident of an area represented by san Leandro unified? District 7 voters have been misled and there should be some accountability!

  • Yazstremski

    Question: Didn’t Ms. Spearman already challenge Harris’ right to run in the first place? If he was allowed to run, then shouldn’t the results be valid?
    Katy? Did you run something on this before? I recall seeing this issue previously.
    Mr. Mordeci, do you know about this?

  • Fact check

    Spearman’s earlier challenge was an ex parte challenge, meaning it was abrupt and without a full record. The parties went to court but the matter was never heard. The judge was on vacation and a visiting judge indicated that ms. Spearman could bring this matter before the court on a full hearing if Harris won. This was primarily because the matter was not brought to the courts attention until the last day alameda county claimed it was about to print sample ballots and voter information. This, the courts have never heard the substance of the matter, so I am informed!

  • Jim Mordecai


    Yes, Ms. Spearman did take the issue of James Harris not living in the Oakland Unified School District to court and Katy reported the story. The Judge declined to address the issue until after the election. It is up to Ms. Spearman if she wants to take the issue to court and paid the cost.

    An interesting question arises if the issue goes to court and the court rules James Harris was not eligible to run. Does that mean Ms. Spearman is re-elected or does that mean a new election must be held?

    Also, Katy reported that Oakland City Charter, the document governing local elections, requires both the School District and the City Council election Districts be the same and they’re not.

    It is the responsibility of the City Council and/or the School District to act to make both City Council and School District boundaries the same, and not let this situation arise again.

    Perhaps Noel Gallo, City Council member elect, and current Oakland School Board member, will be the person to see that this issue of part of Sheffield Village not being in the Oakland School District is addressed as he is connected to both the Oakland School Board and the Oakland City Council.

    But, no matter who addresses the issue, clearly the City Charter isn’t being followed and a change is called for to align both election districts as required by the charter.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Yazstremski

    Thanks Jim, It is curious that he was allowed to run if his residency was questionable. I wonder why the judge did not rule, it seems that would have been the appropriate time to decide this I would think. I’m interested to see how this all plays out.

  • Yazstremski

    Fact Check: I guess my next question would be how is someone allowed to run if they do not reside in that district? Can anyone put their name on the ballot and run if no one checks it or challenges them?
    And, isn’t a judge a judge, visiting or not?

  • DaveP

    The guy in the video was a joke; can’t believe a teacher would be yelling at a school board member that way. I guess this is what people mean by saying due process protects people from voicing dissent. Wow…

    I’ve been following the recent threads and I will say this:

    After watching that video I am 100% convinced that the recent round of closures was done improperly.

    Think about it. This video is proof that Spearman will go directly to the people and say why their school is closing down in her own neighborhood. She has supported school closures before when the facts are clear. She’s proven she will make tough decisions and defend them. She was absolutely indignant about this school in the video not offering PE.

    But in the recent round of closures, she said that things weren’t on the up and up. Given her history of being candid, this statement gives me pause.

    Kind of like when Dave Stewart was asked about Jose Canseco’s allegations of rampant steroid use.

    Radio host: “Is he lying”

    Stew: “I can call Jose a lot of things. Maybe he’s the biggest waste of talent in MLB, but I can’t call him a liar. Jose doesn’t feel the need to lie, that’s why he always finds himself in trouble. He doe and says outrageous things becuase he doesn’t worry too much about what others think.”

    If Spearman says the numbers were cooked. The numbers were likely cooked.

  • DaveP

    This had to be something Harris knew before he ran. If he’s lived there for more than a couple of years, then he knew he wasn’t in OUSD – but he still decided to run. Why? He must have expected that peopole wouldn’t find out. Otherwise he would have done some legal maneuvering to gain eligibility before running.

    What does that say?

  • Ethan Brady

    @1day at a time

    As uncivil as the crowd certainly was, where are those elected leaders with exemplar attitudes and grace? She should have been above it, but she was not. As she hardly ever is in the BOE meetings.
    True, Gallo and Spearman’s against-the-stream theatricals entertain the crowd in the BOE circus. They will be missed for that. Some charter-lovers will do too.
    If you have been to the meetings, as Jim has, who questions that a manners 101 course is highly needed?

  • j reynolds

    Obviously the right question is how does a neighborhood vote itself out of ousd?

    Because I can think of a few that would probably do that were it possible.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/2012/02/three-handy-pages-with-facts-about.html Sharon

    With every charter school they have approved over the years, our school board has handed control of Oakland’s schools over to more and more private individuals who live in Orinda and other places. There is no requirement that Oakland’s charter school operators live in the city. With no charter school cap in the state, and with no flattening of the market share of charter schools in sight, more and more non-residents will running Oakland’s schools anyway. It’s just that they will be private business partners rather than elected public officials.

  • livegreen

    The Board and Admin have approved many charters but have also voted down many charters. When they do the latter the charters just go to the AC BOE who automatically overturn and approve the charters.

    The OUSD Charter Office gives detailed analysis about why some Charters should b turned down and the AC BOE ignored all the analysis. Do they even read the reports???

    AC BOE = Rubber Stamp

  • J.R.

    The overly large redundant education bureaucracy(BOE at the fed,state county and local levels)doesn’t need to know facts figures or reports, they simply shuffle papers to justify their own worthless jobs. They are parasites feeding off the public flow of tax money.

  • Forgotten truth

    This just in: Harris does live in the OUSD. His children can attend Elmhurst, Skyline, or any other school within the Oakland Unified School District. What does Alice Spearman say about the fact that the people did not choose her as their representative? Haven’t heard much from her about that.

  • livegreen

    The AC BOE might b a bureaucracy but they are an elected bureaucracy. 3 of the 7 represent parts of Oakland.


    I’m fine with some charters…but only those that prove themselves and serve their students. The AC BOE should not be a blind, deaf and dumb rubber stamp that ignores the OUSD recommendations on charters…like it appears they have been.

    If they’re voting for all charters, regardless of how they serve their students, then maybe it’s time to vote some of them out.

    How have those that represent Oakland been voting on failed Oakland charters?

  • 1day at a time

    Who dropped the charter bomb in the middle of the conversation. Was it a drone?

    @Forgotten Truth: What do you mean by “This just in”

    Were you being serious? Reporting something that the judiciary has ruled? Or giving an opinion based on your understanding of things. Are you a Shetland resident.

    No matter, this is truly a situation that will work itself out.

  • Alice Spearman

    @Forgotten Truth Says, Please Free Your Mind!
    Mr. Harris may have his children attend OUSD Schools if he applies for an Intra District Transfer. Fact is Sheffield Village is part of San Leandro Unified SD according to tax records and Voter of Registration, and Yes it is part of the City of Oakland. He was not listed on his own ballot, he did not vote for himself nor did he vote for Measure J, he pays no bond or parcel taxes to OUSD, he does to San Leandr USD, however he did vote for Council Member At Large and Council Member District 7. Also if you need further information regarding being informed on issues, please look at the League of Womans Voters Debate for District 7 School Board, you will see Mr. Harris had no idea what Measure J was about. Check Your Facts Please.
    By the way to those who label me Anti Gay, Rebecca Kaplin supported me whole heartedly and my Campaign manager is Gay.
    If you spend 60K on a school board race, paying people to walk, phone bank, and mail the district, spreading untruths, which you believe, what do you think.
    I will never apologoze for being Black and advocating for Black Children, who by the way are the lowest achieving group on standardized tests. Advocating for Black Children does not mean I do not advocate for Latino, Asian, or any other group of children. Equal Education is a Right for all Children no matter what Race they are.
    PS Whether I support Charters or not is not the question, (I have supported many Charters especially ASPIRE), the question is “Is he able to be elected?” The court will rule.

  • livegreen

    Where the kids go to school doesn’t seem to matter as several board members and past candidates either dont have kids in OUSD or have kids in other OUSD schools.

    Seems to me a couple of the more pertinent legal issues will be:

    –The City Charter obliging the voting area for OUSD to match existing council districts. Has this issue already been dealt with in the documents that formalized Sheffield Village’s voting in SLSD?
    –Does the Oakland City Charter (or other legal mandate) prohibit School Board members living outside the District they represent?

    Katy, Do you know or can you research?

  • Observer

    Respectfully, if you actively support a campaign a group of individual that stomps on their civil rights (Prop 8, as the AME church has done by campaigning for 8 and preaching virulent and you refer to parents of the LGBT community dismissively, as ” just another special interest group and we have enough of that” but you are a private citizen, you’re entitled to your opinion. When you hold an office committed to representing ALL groups of people, you will be subject to ALL groups of people and your words and actions may come back to you. I personally will never forget how those words felt (and I heard them with my own ears). Keep in mind that Oakland is one of the most diverse places in the world and no public official should publicly or privately take a stance against any one groups basic civil rights.

    That said, it is clear that Mr.Harris simply does not live within OUSD boundaries and
    therefore should be disqualified.

  • Nextset

    Observer: You are dreaming if you think electeds have any obligation to agree with your politics.

    There are plenty of people who have principled stands against gay marriage and abortion “rights”. Their opinions count.

    I know it hurts but life is not all about you.

    Among other things there are vital concerns about the procedural issues in these areas – state powers vs federal to begin with. So even people who might vote for your position in one instance oppose creation of fantasy rights by judicial fiat.

    You don’t get to dictate how a free people feel and vote. Try it long enough and you get civil war.

    Brave New World.

  • Observer


    The basic human rights of ALL people transcends politics. It is completely ignorant to believe someone’s prejudice is a political stance. It is a moral stance–an immoral one.

    You’re right, “I” don’t get to dictate how a free people “feel”, but I’ll be damned if I’ll sit idly by and let someone’s “That makes me feel funny in my tummy” immature emotions dictate the civil rights of others. Free people will not get to dictate how other free people form their families. Anyone who wants to be on the prejudiced side of this issue is free to do so, but then take responsibility for your beliefs and wear the badge of prejudice proudly. Don’t back peddle when it suits you. History will reserve space for this people in the same light as such folk like Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond. If that’s the path you want to take, that’s fine. But don’t expect it—-in a city with a LGBT population 5 times the national average—to not affect your career.

    Care to wager how this will play out over the next 10 years?

  • John R


    Let me show you why you’re wrong on this.

    Plenty of cultures throughout history thought what we consider now to be pedophilia was just fine, particularly when you talk about a 12 or 13 year old girl.

    People’s opposition to pedophilia is precisely because it “makes them feel funny in their tummies.” There is no objective argument against it, other than our cultural biases as modern westerners. In fact, biologically, pedophilia might make a lot of sense, given when girls are at their highest likelihood of having healthy offspring.

    You’re arguing for moral relativism. It’s a bad argument. Absolute standards are very important. The question, of course, is where to draw the line. That is the function of culture and society. Meaning, decisions on this are necessarily a result of the prevailing opinions of the people at large.

    I agree that attitudes about gays are changing. And, in fact, I probably agree with your side of the issue. But, arguing the opponents are immoral is a shallow analysis of the issue.

  • Observer

    You are comparing accepting gay marriage to accepting pedophilia ? I should not bother with the blatantly unworthy argument, but….

    The ability to consent to sexual activity must be metered somehow. Society has determined that children lack the maturity to make choices in regards to sexual activity. Despite the onslaught of imagery and wording “young, horny, teens”, hardly any 13 year old girls really want to have sex with older guys. No, really. Speaking as a former teenage girl, I guarantee it. Again, clear consent to sexual activity cannot come from a child. It is always coercion and/or force. No Nambla koolaid about denying children their right to sexual pleasure. No individual freedoms are stamped upon with an age of consent law as we are all under the same restriction there.

    And, no, even historically 12-13 year old girls were not physically ready to bear children. In fact, menstruation often did not begin until 14 until after the industrial revolution. But if you don’t believe me, ask any labor and delivery nurse what happens to their pelvic floors when girls that young grace the stirrups.

    Come on, where’s the beastiality argument?

  • John R

    Your facts are bad:


    “In the 12th century Gratian, the influential founder of Canon law in medieval Europe, accepted age of puberty for marriage to be between 12 and 14 but acknowledged consent to be meaningful if the children were older than 7.”

    And your logic is flawed:

    “Society has determined that children lack the maturity to make choices in regards to sexual activity.”

    Precisely my point. Society made this decision through a collective decisionmaking process based on people’s opinions and gut instincts. Their “tummies,” as you nicely put it.

    Your argument for an a priori morality lacks any basis. Morality derives from popular consensus.

  • Observer

    They also bled people when they were ill and believed the world flat.

    Your logic is flawed. Society made that decision imposed upon all members of itself without detraction. We have advanced 90 years from the time when the average life span of the average person was 35 to recoginize the lack of ability in a child, of any age, to consent to bear children of their own (since that would be a given). The example is specious at best, completely apples and oranges.

    Consent is not possible between an adult and a child in sexual relations, then or now.

    Consensual relations between same sex adults, not immoral. To refuse to acknowledge that in 2012 is immoral. To profess to be a civil rights activist while harboring prejudices strong enough that you seek to trample basic human rights? Also immoral.

    You chose pedophilia, but you could have chosen the holocaust or slavery arguing that those that subscribed and benefitted from such beliefs systems were not acting immorally in their time. History is the judge, not the peers of the time.

  • #FactCheck

    @ForgottenTruth: If you are right, then why arent Mr. Harris’ kids in OUSD? If they are in OUSD, which they are not because they go to a private school on the other side of Oakland, then they would be getting the benefit of OUSD enrollment, but not paying into the school asssessments and school taxes that the rest of Oakland homeowners have to pay. The FACT is that this is the only area of Oakland that does not pay taxes toward Oakland Schools. The Sheffield Village precinct does not pay for Oakland Schools, and does not vote for Oakland Schools Measures, like Measure J. They do pay into and vote for San Leandro Schools issues though, like Measure M in 2010.

    If you cant see or vote for the District office you are running for, and you cant see or vote for a Measure (J), that you would be charged with administerinig, it means that you dont live in that District, unless otherwise not qualified on other grounds.

    Its pretty simple folks! Ask Mr. Harris’ neighbors and other people in Sheffield Village! In fact, this is the same Sheffield Village area that tried to completed secede from Oakland in 1983 and 1984.

    On the other topics, I love the robust discourse…

  • Friendly Helper

    @Observer: Could you explain the mechanics of the connection between life expectancy and age of consent in more detail?

    I notice from Wikipedia that the age of consent in Argentina is 13. Life expectancy is 75.3 there.

    Age of consent in Mali is 18. Life expectancy is 54.5.

    This confuses me, because according to you these variables should be strongly correlated.

    It sounds to me like you have some kind of religious belief here regarding age of consent. That’s totally fine, but you should be honest about it. Else, you should admit you’ve lost the argument and move on.

    You might find it helpful to read this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morality — I don’t think “morality” means what you think it does.

    Other Sources:


  • Observer

    Argentina age of consent with the law Article 25 (which you left out): Anyone who promotes or facilitates the corruption of persons under eighteen, even with the consent of the victim shall be punished with seclusion or imprisonment of three to ten years.

    Correlation? Ok, fine. If one can only expect to live 20 years max beyond 15, then one better get the family making on it’s way.

    More correlation: In 1991 the median age for first marriage in Argentina was 23 for women and 26 for men; Brazil, 2006: 26 and 28; US, 2011: 27 and 29.


    descriptively to refer to some codes of conduct put forward by a society or,
    some other group, such as a religion, or

    -accepted by an individual for her own behavior or

    THIS ONE-normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.

    All rational persons! Homophobia is as irrational as racial prejudice. Stomping on the civil rights of a group of people who levy no threat to individuals or society is immoral. How is that proven wrong? The same way you two guys are trying to prove that since it was once acceptable to take children as sexual partners, regardless of consent? See below.

    1. Having the ring of truth or plausibility but actually fallacious: a specious argument.
    2. Deceptively attractive.

    I am an atheist. Morality doesn’t come into play on the age of consent between a child and an adult (as this argument has been posed) as much as logic. The same logic should be applied to same sex marriage. It is illogical to allow adults to have sex with children with no I’ll effects to the child and society as a whole and it is also illogical to allow some consenting adults marry, but not others. To not allow logic to drive laws and instead be ruled by fear dressed up and called morality is the epitome of acting immorally.

  • J.R.

    Morality in human terms is all relative, the absolutes of right and wrong are not concrete in the human mind. We tend to side with “do what thou wilt” rather than “do what is right and just”. The sad thing is, the more accepting we become of all behavior the worse things get. Society has risen to technological heights in the last 100 years, but in that same time the people in our society have become lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient,ungrateful,deceitful,and defiant. Is it really any wonder, that we don’t even care to know the difference between right and wrong.

  • James


    I read the articles the other two folks posted, and it looks to me like you have it wrong. I think you’re arguing more of an emotional position here, which is fine.

    Also, oddly, it does look like Argentina allows sex with children as long as it’s not “corrupting”. How strange.