I definitely support everyone's right to disagree with their local school board, but I'm not a supporter of those who are disrupting meetings and threatening people doing their job.
- It looks like being a school board member was a thankless task before COVID.
- Now it looks like the job can be miserable and downright scary!
What are school boards supposed to do? According to the National School Boards Association, they're supposed to:
- Set policies and standards for academic excellence and performance
- Make sure our students perform adequately at each grade level
- And check that our tax dollars are spent well
But what happens when parents and the community can't agree on what policies should be set?
Before COVID, teachers, parents, and communities argued about textbooks, athletics, and school schedules.
School boards now deal with mask mandates, vaccines, something called Critical Race Theory (CRT), and their usual assortment of contentious topics.
What's happening in North Carolina?
According to a Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board member who works with school boards across the state, North Carolina school board members are being threatened. Here are examples:
- Chapel Hill-Carrboro no longer holds in-person meetings without a police officer present, as members were threatened in September 2021.
- A glass door was busted at an Iredell-Statesville school board September 2021 meeting; repeated disruptions occurred, and speakers were targeted after leaving the meeting.
- In Buncombe County, the school board was forced to call a recess when the audience would not calm down. Some protesters then said they had overthrown the board and were now the new board members. This was not accurate.
- In Henderson County, U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn brought a knife to a board meeting.
It's vital to get community feedback and input, but what can we do when large crowds become unruly, shout, don't recognize rules, and threaten speakers and board members?
Do school boards now have to ensure every meeting has police officers present to protect speakers, the board, and community members?
- This will mean that taxpayers will have to pay for security at many school board meetings.
- Will school board meetings be a safe place for students, teachers, or the community to attend?
- What kind of example are parents exhibiting to their children if they can't discuss differences rationally?
Effects of new N.C. state law requiring monthly mask mandate votes
Recently, the N.C. legislature passed a law requiring school boards to vote monthly on mask mandates.
- The legislature said the law was passed to make sure community input was heard.
- The North Carolina School Boards Association has said that the required monthly votes add to the volatile nature of recent school board meetings.
- Lawmakers were asked to change or rescind the required monthly mask mandate meetings, but N.C. legislators refused to change the law.
What should we do?
Those who disagree with school board members can run for office.
- They don't have to harass board members at meetings or their homes.
- Some school board members are worried and frightened of what angry crowds could do. Some may quit.
So who is going to make school policy in the future?
- Who will want to run for school boards that have to deal with angry, threatening crowds?
- Is it in our student's best interests to have angry, combative adults make school policy?
Maybe it's time to check out what is going on at your local school board meetings.