The Memo: Culture war intensifies around school boards

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School boards have become a new front in the country’s culture wars – and hostilities are only intensifying.

Monday, the attorney general Merrick garlandMerrick Garland Why Latinos Need Justice Department Supreme Court Reform To Investigate Threats Against Teachers, Country School Board Members Hillary Clinton Support End To Filibuster, Says GOP “does not respect the rule of law” MORE announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is taking a number of steps to address threats of violence against school board members at the national and local levels.

Garland has called on the FBI and US lawyers across the country to contact local law enforcement to discuss how to handle “this disturbing trend.” A working group should also be set up.

For supporters of Garland’s position, this was overdue action, as school board members and teachers – and, in some cases, students – faced verbal attacks and aggressive behavior, mainly because of the mask mandates and the controversy over critical race theory in recent months. .

But the DOJ’s decision drew fierce criticism from the right-wing, with Conservatives saying the actions could have chilling effects on dissent and First Amendment principles.

The debate demonstrates, once again, how far apart the competing political tribes have become in America. Officials in the Biden administration have touted the DOJ’s action as a common sense security measure. Republicans presented it as an infamous attack on freedom.

White House press secretary Jen psakiJen PsakiBiden and Xi Jinping will hold a virtual summit by the end of this year. The House Democrat is calling for removing the debt limit authority from Congress., just days before Garland’s announcement, said, “We take the safety of public servants and elected officials across the country very seriously. And obviously these threats to the members of the school board [are] horrible. They are doing their job.

But when Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, she faced hostile questions over the subject of Sens. Josh hawleyJoshua (Josh) David Hawley The Senate GOP is seeking a bipartisan panel to investigate the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden discusses failing Chinese policies further. Defense and National Security Overnight – Brought to you by General AM – Senators slam Pentagon officials MORE (R-Mo.) And Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonBiden steps back further on failed Chinese policies The Hill’s Morning Report – Brought to you by Alibaba – Democrats still at odds on Biden agenda (R-Ark.), Both of whom are possible candidates for the 2024 presidential election.

The Tories had previously been outraged by a letter sent to the Biden administration by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) last week, describing public schools and educators as “under immediate threat” and suggesting that some actions to which members school boards were facing were “tantamount to a form of domestic terrorism.”

“Is it domestic extremism for a parent to defend the best interests of their child? Cotton asked Monaco during the Senate hearing.

Hawley demanded Monaco “tell me where the line is with parents voicing concerns” and also called the FBI interfering in school board meetings.

Responding to the second point, Monaco insisted: “This is not happening. “

Schools have increasingly become the center of the tensions that tear the broader civic fabric of the United States. The trend is closely linked to the stress and political polarization around the coronavirus pandemic, with some parents demanding mask warrants and others equally fervent to resist it.

Meanwhile, the debate over critical race theory has become a proxy for the broader discussion of racial justice, as liberals see it, and “over-awakening” from a conservative perspective.

This has fueled an atmosphere in which local school boards are increasingly drawn into national politics – and affected by the passions that still swirl around the elders. President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham Opposes Rising Short-Term Debt, Warns Of Being “Held Hostage” To Obstruct Facebook Whistleblower To Meet Jan 6 Committee : Report 44% of Republicans want Trump to run again in 2024: PLUS poll.

“The path to saving the nation is very simple – it’s going to be through the school boards,” Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former aide predicted in his podcast in May.

The NSBA letter to Biden described numerous instances of issues that arose during school board meetings.

The association noted that one person was arrested in Illinois for aggravated assault and battery during a school board meeting. Another example came in Virginia, where, according to the NSBA, “one individual was arrested, another man was ticketed for trespassing, and a third person was injured during a school board meeting discussing the distinction between current curricula and critical race theory “.

In the face of these kinds of threats, school board members are convinced that action must be taken.

Monica Peloso, president of the Cheyenne Mountain School District Education Board in Colorado, told this column that she welcomed the Justice Department’s decisions and was “delighted” that the national board had “reached out. to let them know what’s going on. It’s ridiculous.

Peloso has previously told The Hill about the intimidating behavior of his board. On Wednesday, she said that another school district in Colorado felt the need for a strong police presence, including SWAT teams, for one of her meetings.

But a completely different point of view is put forward by Sue Zoldak, a GOP strategist and founder of a parent group in Fairfax County, Va. Called Do Better FCPS.

For Zoldak, the actions of the DOJ are “a clear exaggeration and overreaction to what has happened in the past 18 months.”

Zoldak argued that the pandemic has opened parents’ eyes to the power of school boards. She said her group is focused on obtaining accountability and transparency regarding the operation of her county, in the northern Virginia suburb adjacent to DC.

When asked if she thought some other parent groups had gone too far in their actions, Zoldak objected.

“We wouldn’t be at this point where parents would be so upset if school board members were accountable to their constituents and listened,” she said. “What we have found is that school board members see themselves as politicians as opposed to school administrators.”

She added: “They have put their political views above the academic progress of the students and families they are supposed to care for. Parents are frustrated. “

Right now pretty much everyone in the debate is frustrated. And there is no sign that these passions are cooling off.

The Memo is a column reported by Niall Stanage.


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