School boards have sadly become a new front in America’s culture wars. Attorney General Merrick Garland has announced that the Department of Justice will take several steps to address an increase in intimidation and threats against school board members at the state and local levels. The Department of Justice is expected to create specialized training and guidance for school boards and administrators, as well as to create a task force that will determine how to prosecute these so-called threats. The Attorney General’s announcement followed pleas from the National School Boards Association for federal help to monitor threats against school board members. In its recently published letter, the National School Boards Association equivalated what it calls threats to public school officials to a form of “domestic terrorism” and “hate crimes.” The National School Boards Association has also made clear its expectations that any review of the current situation examine enforceable actions under numerous acts including the PATRIOT Act, a sweeping surveillance legislation passed after September 11, 2001.
In recent months, school board meetings have been disrupted over opposition to Critical Race Theory which argues that racism is embedded in society and ingrained in our institutions. In James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose’s book entitled “Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender and Identity — And Why This Harms Everybody,” the authors analyze the negative aspects of promulgating such a theory. Critical Race Theory is primarily focused on assumptions based solely on skin color, arguing that every single white person is inherently racist, and every single non-white person is oppressed. If children are indoctrinated to read prejudice, insult, and hostility in all daily interactions, they are far more likely to see the world as hostile to them, which could decrease their future level of motivation to succeed. Teaching hard and uncomfortable history takes a lot of courage, and teachers have a responsibility to help students understand different perspectives on contentious topics. However, many American families have started to question the effects of instilling racial indoctrination in their children. Critical Race Theory, which is part of postmodern theory, has provided dubious means to accomplish noble social justice goals because it relies on fear, suspicion, ignorance, and stereotypes.
Furthermore, numerous combative school board meetings have also resulted from some parents opposing school mask mandates, arguing that the decision to mask up their children should be theirs alone. Even though masks have been shown to potentially stop or slow some of the spread of Covid-19, data has been somewhat limited. The World Health Organization advises that the decision to mask children aged 6 to 11 should be based on a couple of factors including the potential impact of mask-wearing on learning and psychological development. In addition, it has advised schools to require masks for children over the age of 12 if they cannot guarantee at least a 3-foot distance from others. CDC guidance recommends that schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students in classrooms, and a majority of U.S. schools have followed their recommendation. The Delta variant spike in the U.S. led to more children being affected by Covid-19, yet children are still far less likely than adults to get severely ill with Covid-19 and to die from Covid-19. Since March 2020, under 700 children have died from Covid-19, according to the CDC.