Diego Hernandez should resign from Reynolds School Board
Rep. Diego Hernandez avoided expulsion from the Oregon House in February by resigning in the aftermath of multiple violations of legislative rules against sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment.
Now, Hernandez faces another decision, whether he should continue to serve in an elected capacity on the Reynolds School Board. That group has tentatively scheduled a discussion and vote on March 10 on a resolution where it might ask Hernandez to step down voluntarily.
Unlike the Legislature, which can expel a lawmaker on a two-thirds majority vote based on rule violations, the Reynolds School Board has no authority to involuntarily remove Hernandez from the board because he hasn't been recalled, broken the law, violated rules or neglected his duties. That's because none of the allegations of sexual harassment happened in connection to his service as a Reynolds School Board member.
The question remains: Is someone who has created a hostile work environment a good fit for a role that serves the interests of thousands of school kids — from kindergarten through high school?
Obviously, it's not a good fit.
Voters expect a high level of professional and ethical conduct from the people who serve on school boards. However, the recent legislative hearings reveal a man who has closed his eyes to the cultural shift away from harassment and intimidation in the workplace.
In the lead up to Hernandez's resignation, the House Committee on Conduct held four days of hearings, listening to five women's allegations of sexual harassment. The committee did not find evidence to support claims by two of the accusers, but found the remaining three credible. Though the women remain anonymous, they were identified as a lobbyist and two aides to elected officials. In all, the committee found Hernandez violated the House rule 18 times and that his sexual harassment created a hostile work environment.
Hernandez has exhausted whatever political capital he had built up over the years. Soon after the House hearings in early February, the political action group East County Rising — which had endorsed Hernandez in his 2018 election to House District 47 — called for his resignation, saying the group "believes the survivors and stands with them."
Now, it's up to the Reynolds School Board to decide whether it stands with the survivors or with Hernandez. Of course, he could save everyone the anxiety by voluntarily resigning from the School Board before the meeting convenes on March 10.
Assuming he forces the issue, the School Board should not condone his behavior by leaving the choice entirely with Hernandez.
If he were to stay on the School Board, he would likely participate in high school commencement ceremonies and many other school activities. He may even find himself involved in drafting anti-harassment policy for the district.
His presence sends a mixed message to students —especially female students — that it remains too easy for men to escape the consequences of abusive behavior.
Hernandez needs time away from public office, during which he can come to grips with the emotional damage he's inflicted. He should willingly make room for a replacement who will have the respect of students, parents, faculty and administrators.
If he won't leave voluntarily, the School Board should, at the very least, ask him to go.
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