In response to her inquiries regarding the controversial grade-changing policy at the online law school he operates, Orange County Board of Education Trustee David Boyd told a reporter he was putting her “on notice” that she may be “party to an extortion attempt.”
Boyd’s obliquely threatening e-mail to political writer Tori Richards forms an emerging pattern of Boyd lashing out at opponents and critics he perceives to be conspiring against him. Last month, Boyd sent a threatening e-mailed his election opponent, Mari Barke, threatening to organize protests in front of her husband’s medical clinic in order to undermine his business.
Richards, a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, was researching her own story on Taft Law School’s policy of retroactively changing student grades in order to keep them enrolled. The practice was investigated by a senior State Bar of California official who observed “the fact that apparently, a motivating factor in the use of these two policies is expressly tied to maintain a student’s eligibility” for federal student loans.
OC Daily originally broke that story on February 15.
When Richards contacted Boyd requesting comment, he sent her an e-mail accusing her of collaborating with an “extortion attempt”:
“This is to put you on notice that you may, knowingly or unknowingly, be a party to an extortion attempt. The information you were provided has everything to do with the upcoming elections in June.”
Boyd refused to provide any comment or explanation on his online law school’s controversial grade-changing policy. Boyd has also refused to respond to multiple requests for comment on the same subject made by OC Daily.
A senior county official has charged Boyd with being a “bully.” Denis Bilodeau is a former Orange City Councilman and current director of the Orange County Water District who serves as chief of staff to Supervisor Shawn Nelson. Boyd CC’d Bilodeau on the threatening e-mail to Mari Barkes, promoting an outraged Bilodeau to denounce his behavior as “unethical” and “beyond despicable”:
I have no idea why you sent the email below to me.
You and I have never spoken, exchanged emails, nor met, and I condemn what you are suggesting in the strongest terms possible.
Threatening your opponent, Mrs. Barke, is unethical. Threatening to disrupt the medical practice of her husband, Dr. Barke, is beyond despicable.
You are obviously a bully, and I have no intention of allowing anyone who sees this email to think I am somehow involved in whatever it is you have planned. I therefore hereby demand you reply to this email and acknowledge that I have nothing to do with this threat made against the Barkes, and further demand that you then cease any communication with me.
Boyd never responded to Bilodeau’s e-mail.
Boyd Threats Contradict OC Department of Education Anti-Bullying Campaign
As a member of the Orange County Board of Education, the governing body of the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE). In contrast to Boyd’s disturbing pattern of sending menacing e-mails to critics and the media, the OCDE places special emphasis on combating bullying.
The OCDE has a dedicated employee charged with providing anti-bullying resources to the Orange County schools “designed to promote a safe school environment by increasing knowledge and attitude on reducing Bullying and Cyber Bullying; to provide resources to educate school staff and parents/caretakers on identifying, stopping and preventing Bullying and Cyber Bullying, and to raise student awareness. Trainings and presentations are available to staff, students, and parents in Orange County.”
OCDE Superintendent Al Mijares is an outspoken opponent of bullying and cyber-bullying, and several weeks ago headlined a school rally event for “Champions for Kindness” – “an alliance of America’s premier anti-bullying/cybersecurity professionals dedicated to fostering a kinder, safer school environment in K-12 schools.”
OC Daily reached out to the OC Department of Education, including Mijares, seeking comment on Boyd’s threatening e-mail and whether it is consistent with the department’s mission, principles and ethics – especially the department’s anti-bullying campaign.
Ian Hanigan, OCDE’s chief communications officer, suggested contacting OC Board of Education President Jack Bedell and stated “It is our policy at the Orange County Department of Education not to comment on matters relating to upcoming elections or statements made by candidates.”