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Board of Education Battle Opens a New Front in US Culture War

LEVITTOWN, USA: When Joshua Waldorf was serving his third term at the Pennsbury Schoolboard in November, one particularly fierce debate caused a plethora of ferocious messages in his inbox, one of which shot himself at him. I urged you.

In a shift projected into cities across the United States, his local council, which oversees schools in the lush suburbs of Philadelphia, becomes the battlefield of a politicalized cultural war that unknowingly upsets the country. I did. The message of hatred directed at Waldorf was just one example of an anonymous slur and threat stream directed at him and his nine-seat board members over the past few months.

“I’m pretty consistent about my point of view,” 58-year-old businessman Waldorf tells AFP that the board is preparing to meet at the gymnasium at the Fallin Ton Elementary School in the green neighborhood of the family’s home. He said he was doing it. “But I’m being blamed for people who weren’t 18 months ago.”

In many parts of the United States, locally elected boards of education are responsible for governing public schools in the community. That is, decide who to hire as a supervisor to manage day-to-day operations, which textbooks to buy, and which education policies to develop. However, over the past year, the two councils had to rule far more issues as the country was on the verge of a Covid-19 pandemic and historically considered racial relations. ..

By choosing to require all students and staff to wear masks, the Pensbury Schoolboard (all Democrats) was accused of “child abuse” and demanded that students “dehumanize” them. .. After hiring an expert in “fairness, diversity and education” last year, the board was accused by parents of “leaving much more radical agenda to indoctrinate students.”

polarization

According to Dan Hopkins, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, the coast-to-coastal school board has a similar experience, reflecting “national polarization that is now infiltrating other levels of government.” doing. “Overall, the politics of the US school board tends to be relatively calm and relatively emotionless,” Hopkins told AFP.

But now he tells the conference that “the truly controversial questions that occupy national affairs are finding their way.” In Pensbury, after the board appoints local vice-principal Dr. Celissa Gibson to a newly created role to oversee the diversity and fairness of the district’s 10 primary schools, 3 middle schools and 1 high school. Things got worse.

Her first audit in April 2021 found “underestimation of color professionals” and a disproportionate level of discipline for black students. According to the district’s website, Pensbury, located in the woody suburbs of Philadelphia, has about 10,000 students, of which 75% are white, 7% are black, 8% are Asian, and 4%. It is a Hispanic system.

For district director Thomas Smith, auditing was a way to “ensure that all students are treated equally, regardless of birthplace, gender, or color.” But opponents like 54-year-old Simon Campbell believe that such an initiative only sharpens the division.

“It’s all about stereotyping by race and gender, separating them, and trying to customize education based on those separations,” said former school board members and stock traders. “Basically children are taught that if you are black … you are poor and need government help,” he told AFP. “If you’re white, you’re an oppressor.” Campbell, who has no children in the school district, posted a video of his remarks at a school board meeting on YouTube and currently has over 30,000 subscribers.

Like other disgruntled parents, he was invited to appear on conservative radio and television shows to discuss the so-called “critical race theory.” The term, which refers to the study of lasting racism in the social system, was seized by the Republicans to widely attack the Democratic Party’s racist policy, which has become a national conservative lightning rod.

False alarm

Christine Toy Dragoni, retired chairman of the Pensbury Board of Education, blames the intensity of the backlash on a national “misinformation campaign.” “People are illuminated by gas lights,” she told AFP. A 50-year-old psychotherapist said the flood of emails began after a video of an enthusiastic conference exchange went viral online.
Most emails weren’t a direct threat and wanted the members of the board to “get” bad, but “when they do it repeatedly, you start to worry,” Dragoni said. Told. “Are they going to take the next step and take action on their words, as you know?”

The risk of violence is real. Many school districts are forced to strengthen police presence on the board, eliminate unruly attendees, and take or remove members from the car. Two months ago, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the FBI and federal prosecutors worked with local law enforcement agencies to discuss strategies for dealing with threats to school managers, board members, teachers, and staff. We have issued a memo instructing you to meet.

Republicans and conservative media have seized notes and accused the Biden administration of using law enforcement to intimidate parents. “People are in silos,” said Waldorf, who won the reelection in November, and “has lost the ability to compromise.” – AFP

https://news.kuwaittimes.net/website/school-board-battles-open-new-front-in-us-culture-wars/ Board of Education Battle Opens a New Front in US Culture War

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