Book bans. Trans athlete bans. “Critical race theory” bans. “Groomers.” America’s schools have become ground zero for some of the most contentious political battles in recent years.
And as those conflicts have deepened, school board meetings, once one of the most utilitarian and, frankly, dullest gatherings you could find in pretty much any town or city, have frequently become warzones between right-wing parents seeking drastic, often shocking changes, and left-wing parents fighting back.
Such is the case in one Pennsylvania school board, where divides between parents and administrators have recently taken a downright terrifying turn.
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A Pennsylvania mom says she was retaliated against after reporting a man for bringing a gun to a school board meeting.
The concerned parent took the podium during the Central Bucks School Board meeting’s public comment period to relay what went down and take school board officials to task for what she and many others feel was their dangerous and nakedly political handling of a terrifying situation.
“In our schools, kids have something called ‘safe to say,'” the mom began, “and what that basically means is that if you see something unsafe, you can report it to the authorities and you can trust that they won’t reveal you as the person who identified the perpetrator… It lets you give a warning while still feeling safe and not worrying that you’ll be targeted.”
But the school district does not seem to have taken the same approach when it comes to parents. The mom went on to recount how she witnessed a man attend a March school board meeting “that was absolutely packed with students” with a concealed weapon on his hip.
“This is a man I’ve seen at several meetings using fake names, being disruptive,” she went on to say, noting that lying about his name is against local laws. The mom said she later sent an email to the school board alerting them of the gun-toting man after another parent had notified a security guard. She said she received no response, but plenty of blow back of another form.
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The mom says the school board sent her contact info to the man carrying the gun, who then began harassing her.
“I know we have major differences,” the mom said, addressing the school board officials, “but you are still public servants with the responsibility to protect this community as much as possible, including the people you disagree with. You didn’t protect me. You put me in danger.”
She says that while she received no response to her missive, she did receive a cease and desist letter from the man carrying the weapon, who claimed the mom was spreading lies about him on social media about having had a gun at the meeting.
She then questioned how the man got her contact information if not from the school board itself, since she said she was too frightened to post online about it. “Please tell me, how did this man know that I reported him to you? How did he know?” she asked, as some parents behind her, said to be part of a local chapter of far-right activist group Moms for Liberty, laughed.
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The man’s denial of having had a gun sparked controversy in the meeting according to the mom, but she went on to recount how a local police officer had confirmed the gun was present. “You didn’t think a man with an unlawful concealed weapon in a room full of students was notice worthy,” the mom scolded the school board. “You didn’t think you needed to tell the community about this.”
“I trusted you to put aside your partisanship and keep our community safe,” she went on to say. “If we can’t trust you to do this most basic part of your job, I respectfully ask that you step aside.” The majority of the assembled attendees then erupted into applause.
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The incident in Bucks County is just the latest in a trend of far-right takeovers of school boards across the country.
The problem has become so intense that the National Education Association, one of the country’s largest teacher’s unions, issued a guide in 2021 for what to do about far-right political groups and conspiracy theory movements like QAnon “radicalizing your school board.
The trend seems to have begun in response to issues pertaining to the pandemic like masking mandates in schools. But it has quickly metastasized as right-wing politicians and parents, swayed by Republican-led conspiracy movements and propaganda, have become convinced that schools are teaching children Critical Race Theory concepts that bash white people (even though they’re not), and that LGBTQ+ people, and especially transgender people, are pedophile “groomers” indoctrinating children into queer lifestyles (which isn’t happening.)
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Radical far-right Republican politicians, like Florida Governor and 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, have urged right-wing parents and voters to infiltrate school boards and other civic appointments by running in local elections, and conservative PACs have flooded such races, especially school boards, with heaps of cash.
And voters have listened. Even states as liberal as California are having widespread issues with school board meetings devolving into ideological war zones, as did the Central Bucks School Board meeting shortly after the mom finished her comments.
Ideological disagreements are one thing, of course. But actively endangering a parent you don’t agree with by essentially doxxing her to a person who thinks it’s his duty to carry a gun to a school board meeting full of children is entirely another.
Somehow, right-wing parents and educators seem to have forgotten that they’re supposedly doing all of this in the name of their children. As the Bucks County mom pointed out in her comments, how are children supposed to learn from adults if they only selectively enforce their rules?
What message does it send to kids to have a rule like “safe to say” if they use it as a weapon against parents they don’t disagree with? If teaching children to hate people who disagree with them is their aim — well, they’re doing one heck of a job.
And sadly, if many of today’s Republican politicians and leaders are to be believed, that’s precisely the goal.
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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.
This article originally appeared on YourTango