Man who tried to steal signatures to recall SF school board surrenders to police

As you probably know, a group of parents in San Francisco have been trying to recall three members of the San Francisco school board, Board President Gabriela Lopez, former Board VP Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga. That effort involved gathering more than 50,000 signatures for each of the three board members to get the recall on the ballot. And that meant a lot of volunteers with clipboards who were donating their time to gather those signatures.

Man Kit Lam is an immigrant from Hong Kong who was gathering signatures on May 30 when a man in a grey shirt approached and offered to sign. Lam gave him a clipboard and then realized the man had run off with it. Lam saw him toss the clipboard under a car and keep walking. He ran after him and confronted him. Here’s how I previously described what happened next:

If you watch the clip closely (30 seconds in) you’ll notice the man seems to be putting his hand behind his back to adjust something. Then he said, “I looked at it, I decided I didn’t want it anymore I don’t have s**t.” The man then walked with Lam across the street to where he’d dumped the clipboard.

“There you go, you got it back. I’m sorry,” the man said as someone else picked up the clipboard and handed it back to Lam. Again, the man starts to walk away.

But Lam isn’t fooled. “Where is the other one,” he shouts. Finally, the man in grey reaches behind his back and pulls out a set of folded petitions he’d stuffed back there. He was hoping he could throw aside the clipboard and walk off with the actual petitions. So when he was saying “I don’t have s**t” they were actually stuffed in his pants.

Lam continued to follow the man even after he’d gotten the pages back. Stealing signatures for a petition is a crime and Lam wanted the man arrested but police didn’t arrive in time. But there has been an ongoing investigation and yesterday, after a warrant was issued for his arrest, the man who stole the petitions turned himself in to police:

Jason Kruta, 31, of San Francisco surrendered at San Francisco County jail after a warrant for his arrest was issued, according to Robert Rueca, San Francisco Police Department public information officer. Kruta was charged with the theft of a recall petition, a misdemeanor violation of the state election code. This came after a probe in which video of a June altercation led to identification of Kruta on social media. Kruta’s name was then reported to police by Kit Lam, the citizen manning the recall petition table.

“I see Jason as a radical who was willing to commit a crime for his cause,” said Lam when reached by phone after the arrest…

“The signatures that he took include Chinese Americans. He was trying to take away our voices,” said Lam, an immigrant from Hong Kong. “It’s a threat to our democracy.”

Lam is right of course. Stealing signed petitions is stealing people’s right to participate in the democratic process. But Lam had a more specific reason for getting involved in the recall petition. He works as an investigator for the school district for 11 years. During the pandemic, he became concerned about what remote schooling was doing to students, including his own kids:

His job allows him to see school records, and last fall, as the district’s distance learning dragged on, he began spotting worrisome reports. Like a fourth-grader whose teacher said he wasn’t even reading at a first-grade level. Or a teacher who said a student hadn’t shown up for 35 days.

“When I saw that, I was so upset,” he said. “What was the Board of Education doing?”

What they were doing, Lam knew, was focusing on unrelated matters like renaming 44 schools and changing the way kids are admitted to Lowell High. He rarely heard them mention the harm distance learning caused students’ mental health and academic performance.

Meanwhile, Lam’s own kids were floundering.

There’s no question that Lam was right about what he was seeing happen to kids. HereSay published a story Monday about new data showing that SF school students fell behind during the pandemic. The data shows that enrollment was down in the district and that absenteeism was up. Perhaps most concerning, it showed that math and reading scores were down, especially among minority groups:

In math, every student group saw a drop in proficiency from the year prior, though some drops were more pronounced. Thirty-eight percent of African American students were marked “Proficient or above” in 2020-21, down from 46% one year earlier. Pacific Islander students with “Proficient of above” math marks dropped to 47% from 60%. District-wide proficiency was at 67%, down from 74%.

Reading proficiency rates for grades 3-10 increased to 62% from 55% the year prior. But SFUSD says assessment participation decreased for African American, American Indian, Latinx, Pacific Islander, English Learner and Special Education students, possibly skewing the results.

In short, education in the district was burning while the school board fiddled with its woke agenda of changing school names based on shoddy research and covering up murals. And that’s not to mention Alison Collins offensive statements on Twitter about Asian students and parents or her decision to file an $87 million lawsuit against the district. Hopefully, all three members of the board will be recalled in a few months. And maybe (alleged) petition thief Jason Kruta will learn his lesson about interfering with people’s right to disagree with him in a democracy.