Taking Our School Boards Back: When rowdy rightwing activists started disrupting school board meetings in Wake County, North Carolina, a group of liberal moms fired back.

AuthorJob, Jennifer

Here is a sample of what a typical board of education meeting in Wake County, North Carolina, sounds like ever since the extreme rightwing group Moms for Liberty began showing up:

My name is Cheryl Caulfield, and I'm running for District One because I have watched decisions made over and over by this board that have harmed our children.

My name is Monica Ruiz and I am a Wake County Board of Education candidate for District Two... . The system used by teachers to take attendance, store health records, and store grades has the sex of your child, my student, hidden... . This means we don't have the ability to determine if the child is a boy or a girl.

"I'm Katie Long and I am running in District Seven... . There's a lack of transparency around the curriculum, and parents' rights have been stripped."

Every two weeks, candidates for the board use three-minute speaking slots during a public comment period to rail against the current board members, who are not permitted to respond. In the audience, rows of people wear T-shirts from Moms for Liberty, with slogans like, "We Do Not Co-Parent With the Government" and "Liberty, Once Lost, Is Lost Forever."

It was a year ago that Susan Book, a public schools advocate with Save Our Schools NC and Communities for the Education of Every Child, realized that the only people showing up to board of education meetings typically were members of Moms for Liberty or their allies.

"I had been submitting public comments online because I was cautious about COVID-19," Book says. "But once I started to see the meetings overrun by Moms for Liberty people talking about masks, critical race theory, and other dog whistles, I knew I had to brave the meetings. And I had to bring people with me."

Wake County is the largest school district in the state, serving about 160,000 students in 198 schools. Approximately 56 percent of its students are from a minority background, and 25 percent of them are economically disadvantaged. Raleigh, the state capital, is in Wake County, as are the suburbs of Cary and Wake Forest and rural towns like Wendell and Fuquay-Varina.

The district made national headlines in the 2000s by having one of the most successfully integrated systems in the country, having introduced changes such as limiting every school to no more than 40 percent free or reduced lunch students. Then there was a Tea Party takeover of the officially nonpartisan board of education in 2009. Funded by conservative...

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