A new warzone

School board meetings are taking a turn for the worst

As more and more controversial topics begin to surface within our school districts, school board meetings around Nebraska, and nation wide, are becoming less of a civilized debate and more like a warzone.

Photo Courtesy of Omaha.com

As more and more controversial topics begin to surface within our school districts, school board meetings around Nebraska, and nation wide, are becoming less of a civilized debate and more like a warzone.

Alexis Bahensky, Opinions Editor

School board meetings have always had their issues with nasty remarks coming from both parents and board members, however, recently they have become a full-on battlefield initiating a war between the two parties.

During board meetings, it is not unusual for a debate to break out over many different topics, such as the recent mask debates in Omaha’s school districts. Unfortunately, people are starting to confuse debating with arguing. Unlike arguing, debates are held in a formal setting, such as a lecture hall, and are supposed to end with a vote to determine which side takes the victory. Arguing, on the other hand, is completely different. Most of the time it has no formality to it, meaning no organization, which leads to no decisions being able to be made over a disagreement. Since arguments are breaking out within these meetings, rather than having a formal debate leading to a decisive conclusion, both parties usually end up throwing insults at one another.

Before the pandemic, many parents weren’t getting involved in school affairs unless it meant a school activity was to be canceled. With so many controversial topics popping up, parents are deciding now is the time for them to become a larger part of their children’s lives by voicing their opinions on how they want their children to be taught. This is a terrific idea. Parents should get involved in their children’s education. However, many are taking it in the wrong direction. Rather than handling many of these issues civilly, many want to either recall the board members completely or even insult and threaten those members.

In a meeting earlier in August, Deborah Neary, a board member from Omaha, said that she heard a massive amount of racism as well as homophobia. She recalled that a parent confronted a different board member about her rainbow mask stating that it had “dangerous symbolism.” These are the things that need to be avoided during these meetings. Nothing will ever be able to get done with people throwing nasty remarks at one another. A parent deserves to care about what their child is exposed to in their lives, but when that involves insulting a board member, or even another parent, then things are being taken too far.

Members of other school boards around the country have also begun to voice their concerns about the negative comments and actions they receive from parents in their communities. One board member in a Nevada school district stated that they considered suicide after receiving many threats from not only parents but others outside the county and even parents who didn’t have children who attended the school district. This is becoming increasingly concerning as more and more board members receive death threats as more controversial topics take surface. 

People tend to forget that those on the board are real people. While concerned for their children’s well-being, many choose to ignore that those on the board have feelings similar to theirs about the subject at hand. If a parent sees something they see as “destructive” to their children’s education they should take it to the board in a civil manner. This usually takes place through a private meeting with the school board or using the time given at many meetings to speak freely to those board members while avoiding a negative connotation. Parents, as well as other adults in the community, should not be tweeting racial threats, writing letters mentioning potential dangers that will fall upon a member if they are unwilling to go with a certain ruling, or even use their given speaking time at a meeting to criticize others. Doing any of the mentioned actions will only make the process for a ruling more controversial which will take even longer to pass. 

Parents are not the only ones to blame for the tension in these meetings. Board members themselves need to be careful of what they say and do. Earlier in the year, most members of the school board in Northern California resigned after making harsh comments about parents in the school district regarding online learning. Members of school boards should respect the members of their community during and outside of meetings. They should not be slandering the opinions presented to them by concerned parents, especially when those parents are not present. Even if those parents are “attacking” the board directly rather than the topic at hand, members should resist commenting back as it could make matters worse.

Board members and parents alike need to learn how to be more respectful during these meetings. It will take a lot longer to get anything done than if people continue to act uncivilized during these meetings. If we want the children of our future to respect decisions made by the board, we first need to show that those within the meetings can show respect to one another as well.