Tears, politics, and money: School boards are battle zones

Local school boards across the country are becoming hotbeds of anger, political division and tussles over issues such as COVID-19 mask rules and the treatment of transgender student. They also have to decide how to teach America's history of racism and slavery.

Tears, politics, and money: School boards are battle zones

Local school boards across the country are becoming hotbeds of anger, political division and tussles over issues such as COVID-19 mask rules and the treatment of transgender student. They also have to decide how to teach America's history of racism and slavery.

TheEditor
TheEditor
10 July 2021 Saturday 11:34
595 Reads
Tears, politics, and money: School boards are battle zones

Even boring meetings that used to be orderly have become chaotic. Elections for school board seats that were previously uncontested have been dominated by candidates who are passionate about one issue or the other.

Loudoun County's June school board meeting, which dealt with transgender students, and the teaching of "critical Race Theory" , became so chaotic that one person got arrested for disorderly conduct, while another was cited as trespassing.

Kalispell, Montana and Rapid City, South Dakota saw nonpartisan school board races turn into political warfare when conservative candidates, upset by the requirement to wear masks in schools sought to take control.

A Republican donor has pledged $500,000 to Pennsylvania's school board races.

Jeff Holbrook, the head of Rapid City's Pennington County GOP said that "We're engaged in a culture war."

A new majority of South Carolina's Lexington–Richland school board members were upset about pandemic restrictions. They voted to fire Christina Melton, the superintendent. Christina Melton had tried to keep the mask requirement in place until the end of the academic calendar. Just weeks before, she was named the state's superintendent-of-the-year.

Melton wept at June's meeting when she announced her resignation. Another board member quit the day after Melton offered her resignation. He claimed that Melton was forced out by closed doors in order to avoid a public vote. At its next meeting, the board expelled the departing member.

Tifani Moore, a mother of three and husband who teaches in the district, said that "now we're known for the district with crazy school boards".

Moore is running to fill the vacant board seat. She promises to end the political division that she fears has led to the board's insolvency.

She said, "It's thick enough that even the children feel it."

School boards typically consist of parents and former educators. Their job was, at the most, to discuss budgets, plan lunch menus, or hire superintendents.

During the pandemic, parents were able to participate in online meetings. The crisis also gave rise to new urgency for school board decisions. Parents were worried about their children's progress due to remote learning and argued over the severity of the health risks.

Clarice Schillinger, a Pennsylvania mother who founded Keeping Kids in School, said, "I saw over-and-over again frustrated parents. Thousand of parents calling into their board meetings. Writing letters and getting no reply."

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