Op-Ed: Attacks on school board meetings are threatening democracy. Will educators help save it?

John Rogers, Center X Faculty Director, co-authored an Op-Ed in the LA Times.

By Joseph Kahne and John Rogers, LA Times

Over the last several months, school board meetings across the country have become ground zero for contentious and destructive battles. The vitriolic political rhetoric and threatening behavior are posing a serious threat to democracy.

Last month, anti-mask protesters forced their way into a Poway Unified School District board meeting in San Diego County, and video showed that a few tried to swear themselves in as new board members. In June, players on Coronado High School’s basketball team threw tortillas into the air at an opposing team of predominantly Latino players. After the local school board issued a formal apology for the incident, one board member was repeatedly harassed on social media, including threats of physical violence. Throughout the U.S., school board members are being subjected to abuse, and some of them are choosing to resign.

As researchers who have long studied the democratic aims of education, we are concerned these antidemocratic attacks will lead district and school leaders to avoid putting into place challenging policies, such as COVID-related masking and vaccine rules aimed at protecting the health of educators and students. We also worry that these leaders will discourage classroom discussion of controversial issues and teaching about the history and current manifestations of American racism. Such a retreat by educators, to avoid community backlash, would forsake the pivotal role many public schools try to play in preparing young people to engage in democracy.