West Linn school committee member resigns over comments
After parents within the West Linn-Wilsonville School District called for the removal of longtime Long Range Planning Committee member Doris Wehler for incendiary comments she made in a podcast with Wilsonville resident and former state Rep. Matt Wingard, the district announced that Wehler is resigning from the post.
"Doris and I had an honest and respectful conversation and she decided it was in the best interest of our communities that she resign," School Board Vice Chair Chelsea King said via text message.
At various points in the podcast, titled "The Horrible Deplorable Show," episode 87, Wehler said that "Some rioters and ANTIFA need to be killed" and the Trump administration should use violence to prevent people from removing historical monuments.
She also asked Wingard "Then why do we have Spanish taught in schools" and "So how do we get the Black community to stop having babies that have no fathers?"
Wehler also suggested that younger generations are less patriotic than older generations and that schools are the culprit.
"We've been teaching revisionist history now for quite some time," she said.
In an interview with Pamplin Media Group, Wehler said she doesn't feel remorse or regret for her comments and clarified some of her statements.
About her comment that rioters should be killed, she said the government should lay down the law against them.
"If they're being lawless and causing death and destruction, I believe legal authority should do whatever is necessary to stop mob violence, rioting and burning of property," she said.
She also said she's happy that the district offers Spanish to students, reiterated her view that young people aren't as patriotic as older generations who experienced the country coming together during wartime, and declined to comment on her question about the Black community.
Andrew Kilstrom, the district's director of communications, said he has received more than a dozen emails and calls about the issue and that the district as a whole has received more. There also have been a number of posts on West Linn Facebook pages calling for Wehler's removal.
The Long Range Planning Committee is appointed by the school board, advises the board on matters related to future school facilities and is not a voting body. Wehler served on the committee since 2001 and her term would have expired in 2022.
"It's not something we take lightly," Kilstrom said. "We're a school district rooted in equity. We don't condone any racism, overt or systemic, and we want to make that clear."
When asked for comment, school board member Ginger Finch said district policy is to refer questions back to Kilstrom and King declined to comment further on the situation.
State Rep. Courtney Neron, D-Wilsonville, came across the podcast a few days ago and said she was hoping to hear perspectives outside of her more liberal "echo chamber." But she was shocked by what she heard and supported efforts to remove Wehler, though she said she was unaware that parents were asking for that. She also said she posted about it on Facebook.
"I found her comments incredibly offensive and based on my own personal response to it I definitely don't want her serving my children," Neron said. "I feel like we have a lot of community members who are very engaged and looking out for all children, and we need to make sure we have a process that overlies an equity lens to not only who is appointed to the board but how they're appointed to the board."
Jana Lombardi, a Stafford resident, was one of the parents to contact the district about this issue.
"For me, her beliefs prevent her from being an advocate for ALL students in the district, which is what her position on the committee requires," she said via a Facebook message. "WLWV has a clear policy on racism and advocating for all students. Her statements are in direct contradiction to them."
Tiffany Decker, a Hillsboro resident who shared a Facebook post calling for Wehler's removal, was concerned by how openly Wehler shared her views.
"She obviously feels very comfortable sharing her racism in a forum that is easily accessible to many people. Wingard invited her to the show, knowing her views. Which tells me that the Board must know she has these views. So what's that say about the Board," Decker said via a Facebook message.
Along with serving in her role with the district, Wehler has been a key figure in Wilsonville politics, both serving as the petitioner in a recently approved measure that will impose term limits on Wilsonville City Councilors and supporting more conservative candidates like current Wilsonville City Councilor and mayoral candidate Ben West. Wehler felt that this issue was being brought up as retribution for her role in the term limits ballot measure.
West said Wehler provided financial support and helped craft policy during the 2018 campaign, when he was first elected to his seat. However, he said Wehler is not a part of his current campaign and criticized her comments.
"I find it disappointing. For me I find it disappointing because I found the rhetoric insensitive and charged during a really difficult time not only in our local region but also a country as a whole, and I by no means would support unnecessary or gratuitous violence of any kind," West said.
Wehler also is a former president of the Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce and member of the Rotary Club of Wilsonville and was once named First Citizen, an honor given annually by the Rotary to an impactful volunteer in the community.
Earlier this week, during a Wilsonville City Council meeting, Councilor Charlotte Lehan suggested that there was a racist element to calls for the Frog Pond West neighborhood in Wilsonville to have solely single-family homes rather than diverse housing types. Wehler was one of the people who advocated for low density in that neighborhood and was one of the first residents to move in there.
"I thought they (Wehler's comments in the podcast) were jaw-dropping, but aside from that, it's inappropriate to have someone on the long-range planning committee who is going to make comments like that (and) who holds those values," Lehan said in an interview.
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