RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Local school boards around the country are increasingly becoming cauldrons of anger and political division, boiling with disputes over such issues as COVID-19 mask rules, the treatment of transgender students and how to teach the history of racism and slavery in America.
Meetings that were once orderly, even boring, have turned ugly. School board elections that were once uncontested have drawn slates of candidates galvanized by one issue or another.
A June school board meeting in Loudoun County, Virginia, that dealt with transgender students and the teaching of “critical race theory” became so unruly that one person was arrested for disorderly conduct and another was cited for trespassing.
In Rapid City, South Dakota, and Kalispell, Montana, nonpartisan school board races devolved into political warfare as conservative candidates, angered over requirements to wear masks in schools, sought to seize control.
In Pennsylvania, a Republican donor is planning to pour $500,000 into school board races.
“We’re in a culture war,” said Jeff Holbrook, head of Rapid City’s Pennington County GOP.
In South Carolina’s Lexington-Richland school system, a new majority of board members upset over pandemic restrictions forced out the superintendent, Christina Melton, who had pushed to keep a mask requirement in place through the end of the academic year. She had been honored just weeks earlier as the state’s superintendent of the year.