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Sam Fant: Mug shots & head shots

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POSTED September 14, 2017 1:21 a.m.

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words.
If that’s the case, one particular photo of Sam Fant may be worth a 10,000 word dissertation.
Fant is the former Manteca Unified School District trustee that earlier this month pled no contest to felony charges that he committed voter fraud. The fraud involved his role in the registration of Ashley Drain and Alexander Bronson at addresses they did not reside at so they could run for the school board. Neither were legal residents of the district under state law. It would be like someone living in Stockton running for the Manteca mayor’s post and doing so by committing perjury when signing a voter registration form as well as a declaration of candidacy.
Within several days of the deal forged allowing Fant to not worry being prosecuted for other election-related felonies, his photo disappeared from the Manteca Unified board meeting room where all existing and previous trustees — with three exceptions — are displayed.
Also missing is a photo of a trustee from the 1990s convicted of a felony as well plus the photos of Drain and Bronson. Fant’s photo has since reappeared on the board room wall.
It might seem trite or a petty issue, but after first glance it is much deeper.
The photo gallery exists to acknowledge the history of the service of those who have served on the Manteca Unified for the last 51 years.
The photos of Bronson and Drain were removed after they were charged with election fraud. While neither of their cases have been completely settled, the premise of the charges is they used fraudulent means to get elected therefore they never met the legal criteria to be elected. It’s fairly clear they were neither a duly elected trustee nor a duly appointed trustee.
The trustee from the 1990s was duly elected. He was convicted of a serious crime not associated with his school board service. The nature of it was heinous enough that trustees — or perhaps the administration — at the time wanted to white wash his association with Manteca Unified.
That seems reasonable until you look at the bigger picture.
The gallery represents trustees who legally could serve and did serve. By taking down any photos of past trustees that meet that criteria is revising history.
The issue isn’t whether the school board or even administration has the power to determine whose photos are displayed in the board room. That’s a given. The problem is you have people essentially in charge of the education of nearly 25,000 students embracing the concept that it is OK to alter history to remove the warts cleansing it of all traces of those deemed to have done “bad” in favor of those who meet the official standard of good. In the case of Manteca Unified, that obviously means only those that were duly elected or appointed who haven’t been convicted of felonies while in office or after leaving the school board can have their photos grace the walls of the boardroom.
One wonders how such a standard would play in the history classes conducted on Manteca Unified campuses. Do teachers sanitize history to root out evil and jettison “the bad” parts and people to make sure only “the good” is left.
It’s rich given how in the past when parents or the community have questioned how a course is taught or how a teacher expresses points involving history or the political system, trustees will insist that policies in place be followed. Specifically, the bias of the instructor shouldn’t be allowed to come into play. Teachers, for the most part, work to do just that.
Granted there is no written policy about whose photo gets hung in the board room, but one would imagine what’s good for the gander is also good for the goose.
The facts speak for themselves. Fant was elected to — and served — a four-year term on the Manteca Unified board. That’s a fact. It’s history.
Fant also pled no contest to voter fraud. That’s a fact. It’s history.
The fact Fant essentially copped to a felony by agreeing to the facts the prosecution presented but not admitting to the crime that was charged as a nolo contendere plea option allows doesn’t change the fact he served on the school board.
It is no state secret that Fant could rub some people the wrong way — fellow school board members as well as humble classified workers that he tossed under the proverbial bus to make a point, political or otherwise. Even if everyone characterizes Fant’s actions as being negative, it still doesn’t negate the fact he legally served on the school board.
Fant — just like his former colleagues — has the capacity for good and bad.
How we go about doing things in life, conduct ourselves, or cherry pick rules we want to follow can be seen differently by different people. And while it is fairly clear Fant broke the law based on the facts he agreed to, his plea means he doesn’t believe it should be a crime.
The school board — or whoever is the keeper of the wall of trustee photos — should not cherry pick facts to suit their particular view of Fant.
It is why the yo-yo play that Fant’s photo has been given reeks of much more than what some might term pettiness.
Simply put, what message does it send students that it is OK to cleanse history in order for it to fit a perception that the censor wants?

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