Are you willing to serve on a local school board? Before you answer, look at some of the stories about recent events at school boards across the country. Behavior by some parents has been so appalling that it led Attorney General Merrick Garland to ask the FBI and U.S. attorneys to combat a spike in harassment, intimidation, and violent threats.
The issue hits home with me because my public high school’s auditorium was recently the scene of such a contentious meeting. I read about it in a local, weekly newspaper, The Bucks County Herald.
The high school auditorium was being used because attendance was so large for a meeting where COVID masks were to be discussed. The Chief Medical Officer and the CEO for the local hospital were there trying to educate the community and board members about covid transmission. When the medical officer spoke, some attendees screamed “lies” and hooted him down.
There was a vote taken that night on whether masks should be required in this public school system, and afterward, one of the board members resigned, saying, quote, “I’m done with the bullying effective tonight.” He said that he’d received death threats. He and his wife needed police protection.
Who could blame him for resigning? You take a thankless, after-hours job for little or no pay in an effort to be involved in your community and are rewarded with stalking and death threats?
And he’s not alone. There have been many reports of school board members resigning.
What worries me is the void created, and who will fill it? Probably the kooks – the most extreme among us. The type who would come to a public meeting and make threatening comments. Just the latest example of our public discourse being led by the loudest voices.
It’s no wonder then that AG Garland is getting involved. This week his office released a statement that included this:
“In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools…While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views… Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values, those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety.”
Of course, that’s not the way it’s being interpreted. By way of illustration, Senator Josh Hawley asked this of a DOJ official who was defending the new policy.
“Is parents waiting, sometimes for hours, to speak at a local school board meeting to express concerns about critical race theory or the masking of their students, particularly young children is that in and of itself harassment and intimidation?”
The answer is, of course not, but harassment and intimidation is defined. It looks like emails like this, sent to the board chair in Sarasota, Florida who will join me in a moment:
“Stay the f*** out of our lives. You don’t get to take those decisions and if you try you won’t like the outcome, I can promise you that.”
“Shut your f-ing mouth when it comes to parenting. Parents are going to kick down the door and drag you out by your hair”
On Tuesday the New York Post put this topic on its cover and said:
Parents and politicians are slamming the Department of Justice’s decision to bring in the FBI to investigate a spike in ‘threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff,’ saying the Biden administration is likening their protests of “woke” policies such as critical race theory — as well as mandatory mask-wearing — to “domestic terrorism.’
These critics of Garland see the AG’s action as intending to stifle parent protest to enable mask mandates and the spread of critical race theory.
The post quotes this tweet by Asra Nomani, Vice President of Investigations and Strategy at Parents Defending Education, who has been a vocal opponent of which school boards implement “woke” ideas into curricula, such as critical race theory:
Dear @TheJusticeDept Merrick Garland and @FBI Director Christopher Wray,
This is what a domestic terrorist looks like?
You are criminalizing parenting, and you owe the people of America a swift apology.
Asra Nomani @DefendingEd https://t.co/McvDgeF9j3
— Asra Q. Nomani “Domestic Terrorist” (@AsraNomani) October 5, 2021
Sorry, there’s not a widespread movement afoot to force critical race theory on every public student in America. Most of the unruliness that’s taking place in school board meetings across the country is by people who have been whipped into a frenzy over masks, and vaccination by the same media outlets who now tell us Merrick Garland wants to criminalize the town square despite his statement recognizing “spirited debate”.
If you are going to serve in the public arena, your face will be marred by dust and sweat, but shouldn’t be blood!
The temperature is too hot. The climate is too dangerous. Someone is going to get hurt, so we better act before that happens.