November 3, 2021

Anya Kamenetz: A look at the groups supporting school board protesters nationwide

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Writing for NPR, Anya Kamenetz takes a look at some of the groups leading the charge against local school boards, opening with one particularly bizarre example.

The Poway Unified School District, in San Diego County, Calif., was planning a pretty typical school board meeting in September. They were hearing reports from their student representatives and honoring their teachers and other staff members of the year.

Because of the pandemic, the general public has been asked to join and comment via livestream.

That hasn’t stopped protesters from showing up in person.

“In the August meeting, they were pounding on the windows,” said board member Darshana Patel. “So little by little it’s been escalating — they’ve been antsy and escalating their hostility and aggression toward the board.”

In several states and districts around the country, protestors have been disrupting school board meetings. They’re opposed to mask policies. Vaccine mandates. LGBTQ rights. Sex education. Removing police from schools. Teaching about race and American history, or sometimes, anything called “diversity, equity and inclusion” or even “social-emotional learning.”

The protests aren’t ubiquitous, but they’re widespread and intense enough that the National School Boards Association asked President Biden to step in, and Attorney General Merrick Garland then directed the FBI to help.

What happened — what is happening — in Poway is not an isolated incident, but it may take the cake for being “surreal,” as Patel puts it.

At the board’s Sept. 9 meeting, some protesters followed behind a visitor and got inside the building. Patel and her fellow board members decided that the best way to de-escalate the situation was to immediately adjourn the meeting.

What happened next is documented in an elaborately shot and edited video posted to YouTube:

“So we are the people,” says a man in a black baseball cap and black T-shirt. “So we can go ahead and replace the board. Let’s take a vote. Who’s willing to become the president?”

Another man steps up, wearing a T-shirt that says “Let Them Breathe,” with a yellow smiley face on it.

He gives his name as Derek Greco. The protestors vote, “Aye!” to make him the new “school board president.”

Read the full piece here.

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