Why school boards are a nexus between America’s culture wars

Maud Marron is a lawyer, mother, former school board member and now an independent candidate for New York City Council. She knows firsthand how high the the temperature can reach at school council meetings.

“We’re kind of algorithmically configured to run to the furthest corners of our positions instead of finding the middle ground,” she says.

Regarding calls for federal law enforcement to investigate school board meeting spillovers, Maron says:

“Offering your opinion in a public meeting in a public place is an essential american thing do,” she said. “It’s a protected right, and it’s something that we absolutely have to make sure he’s not…arrested or intimidated.”

While parents come forward worried about what their children learn at school, politics is also in play at school board meetings across the country.

“Right-wing groups have often returned to public schools as culture war battlefield,” says Peter Montgomery. “But it’s also clearly an attempt to irritate and mobilize.”

This hour, About: Inside of black board culture wars.


Pierre Montgomery, senior researcher at Right Wing Watch, a progressive advocacy group. (@petemont)

Noah Weinrich, spokesperson for Heritage Action for America. (@weinrich_noah)

Laura Vozzella, a political reporter from Virginia at the Washington Post. (@LVozzella)

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Shirley Brownpresident of the Sarasota County School Board.

Maud Marron, candidate for New York City Council. (@MaudMaron)

Interview Highlights

On the politics in play at school board meetings

Pierre Montgomery“It’s a continuation of that trend that you’re talking about, for public schools to become cultural battlegrounds and political battlegrounds. I think one thing that’s different right now is that there is a congregation of COVID conspiracies and people who see masks and vaccine requirements as a form of tyranny, and that’s on top of this fabricated right-wing campaign against critical race theory.

“And then pre-existing concerns, and escalating concerns about teaching racism in schools, but also including LGBTQ students. So there are a number of issues that are being used by right-wing groups to trick people into showing up at school board meetings, running for school board elections, and trying to take over.

The National Association of School Boards wrote a letter on September 29 to the Biden administration, asking the Justice Department to look into the Patriot Act and consider some of these acts as homegrown terrorism. Is it an overrun?

Pierre Montgomery“It’s really important to distinguish between what the School Boards Association asked for and the Justice Department did, and what Republicans and right-wing groups misrepresent. No one is trying to treat worried parents like domestic terrorists just to show up, the Heritage Foundation claimed in an email this morning.

“The concern that was raised was about the increasing level of harassment and threats of violence directed at school board members and educators. … The Justice Department has made it clear that it supports the right to lively debate, and this is not an effort to silence people who want to show up and yell at their school board members. It is an effort to deal seriously with criminal acts such as harassment, threats of violence and actual acts of violence.

From Reading List

Right wing surveillance: “Turning Point USA targets school boards over ‘evil’ mask requirements and ‘radical’ training on bias and inequality | Right wing surveillance– “Turning Point USA, an organization that trains and mobilizes right-wing students, launched a project targeting public school boards on August 15, the Documented newsletter reported.

Right wing surveillance: “The right-wing political machine is poised to take over school boards by stoking critical race theory fears” – “The right-wing campaign to stifle teaching and discussion of racism in US history and institutions is alarmist on critical race theory to mobilize right-wing activists and conservative voters to take control of local school boards.”

Right wing surveillance: “Family Research Council raises money for right-wing school board takeover campaign– “Family Research Council President Tony Perkins is raising money to promote right-wing takeovers of local school boards.”

Spectrum News 1: “Conservative groups train activists to invade school board meetings” – “Blanca Martinez took to the podium at a recent Fort Worth School Board meeting.”

This article originally appeared on WBUR.org.

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