Parents want their anxieties noticed and their concerns recognized.
BY MARK POWELLOCT. 26, 2021 4:01 PM PT
When calls to defund the police were in full force, the California School Boards Association and the National School Boards Association did not oppose efforts by school districts to limit or completely remove police from campus. Now the same associations that remained astonishingly quiet while calls to eliminate school police were in high gear are pushing to increase police presence at school board meetings. But like the saying goes, “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.”
The California School Boards Association and the National School Boards Association recently asked Gov. Gavin Newsom and President Joe Biden, respectively, to use local and federal agencies, again respectively, to protect school boards from what they claim are unparalleled attacks from the attendees at school board meetings.
The National School Boards Association claimed that these attacks amount to nothing short of domestic terrorism and hate crimes. It is also calling on the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Service to investigate threatening letters and online messages sent to students, school board members and staff.
In other words, the CSBA and the NSBA want more police protection for their elected school board members.
Many school boards have called for less police on campuses and an increase in the social services at schools. At least six California school districts this year have approved efforts to eliminate school police or cut funding. Ironically, these districts use police as security to protect school board members during board meetings.
In California, 23 school districts have their own police departments, San Diego Unified being one, while other districts contract with local police or sheriff’s departments. Some educators and elected officials state that school districts should divert money spent on police and use it to hire more school counselors, psychologists and social workers to support students — hence one of the reasons to defund the police.
Having more student services makes sense because these positions provide a lot of support to teachers and complete a team that can effectively address the educational needs of students, leading to an increase in student achievements. However, funding additional support services should not be at the expense of our school police.
Removing police from schools makes our students and board members less safe and leads to even more communication failure between the public and law enforcement, which is the opposite of what is needed.
One reason members of the public are disrupting school board meetings stems from the frustration of not being acknowledged or validated. It is human nature to want our feelings acknowledged. Parents want their anxieties noticed and their concerns recognized by school board members. After all, schools are supposed to be the second home for our children. Parents send their children to school to learn and help them become knowledgeable adults, but parents also willingly send them because they believe their children will be safe and well taken care of at school. Parents hold our elected school board members accountable to make sure that happens and express their feelings and concerns on all student-related issues at school board meetings.
Parents do not necessarily want board members to agree with their feelings, but they do want their feelings validated in public. And when board members remain silent on the dais and fail to acknowledge a parent’s feelings, it can lead to greater frustration and eventually anger, resentment or even rage.
Board members are occasionally admonished by their legal counsel not to respond to comments made by attendees for fear of litigation or violation of board policies. Some school boards even limit the number of speakers and comments on a particular topic, and that can create frustration and anger. There is a solution, however.
School board policies and board meeting procedures must be modified to allow some back-and-forth dialogue between constituents and board members, and all speakers must be given the right to speak. In addition, prior to even their first school board meeting, our elected school board members must be trained in conflict resolution and media communications.
This would go a long way to avoiding outbursts from frustrated parents who are feeling fed up with mask mandates, mandatory vaccination requirements and perceived critical race theory indoctrination. Modifying how we hold our school board meetings sounds desperately simple, and in a way it is. And yet this little bit of emotional acknowledgment at board meetings will go a long way to help curtail the frustration and anger parents are currently feeling.