This is the story of how our inability to confront our racist history is fueling a right-wing misinformation campaign against our schools, resulting in contentious, partisan school board elections in district after district around the country.
School board elections tend to be low turnout, non-partisan events. But for many districts, this year is different. On Long Island where I live, one of those races is taking place in the Smithtown Central School District. Three challengers are trying to unseat the incumbents who are up for reelection on May 18th in a campaign unlike any school board election Smithtown has ever seen.
As in other districts, the opposition to the Smithtown school board began last year because of COVID. In some districts, parent protests were sparked by opposition to mask mandates. In Smithtown, it was opposition to a hybrid COVID modification plan of part in-classroom and part remote learning for the 2020-21 school year that set off protests. Under the slogan, “5 Days to Thrive”, meaning that all children needed to be back in school five days a week to thrive, a group of parents protested against the hybrid model. https://longisland.news12.com/smithtown-parents-continue-to-demand-their-kids-be-allowed-to-return-to-school-5-days-a-week-42529542
This was before vaccines and when the CDC was still recommending six feet between desks. The only way to achieve that was to have half the usual number of children in the classroom at any given time. The schools had moved from all remote learning at the beginning of the lockdown to the hybrid model last fall, just like the vast majority of schools in Suffolk County, but these protesting parents claimed that the board wasn’t trying hard enough to bring their children back full time. They did not view the decision as being in good faith. They claimed it was a conspiracy between the board and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) to favor teachers over students.
This past spring, all students came back full time, with almost all … [more].