Toxic policies are poisoning our school board races – All News, Blogs, Featured News
Anyone wondering why the Florida Constitution requires school board elections to be nonpartisan need to look no further than what is happening in our county, where the invasion of prisonerless political forces has produced the local campaign. the ugliest and most hostile I have seen here.
The harsh rhetoric, intolerant attitudes and underhanded tactics we have witnessed in recent months should be beneath the good people of our community – who until recently seemed to be immune to the political polarization and tribalism that have left our nation dangerously divided.
It wasn’t until four years ago, in fact, that the local Republican and Democratic parties ignored the spirit of the law and began supporting school board nominees.
But it’s much worse now.
Amendments are not enough. Political opponents are now seen as enemies to be demonized and defeated. As a result, our once neighboring community, Mayberry-by-the-Sea, has become a culture war battle zone in a battle to determine the future of public education in the county.
Certainly, there have been fallouts from our national politics, which are more toxic and corrosive than at any time in my adult life. You’ll notice, however, that we don’t see any of the same venom and sewer rat behaviors in the two county commission races.
That’s because the supposedly nonpartisan school board races have been infected by the most aggressive and ambitious political newcomer in years – a fledgling group calling themselves the “Moms For Liberty,” which is more than a little ironic, given his hardline stances and unwillingness to tolerate diverse viewpoints.
For those unaware: Indian River and Brevard counties are the birthplace of the 20-Month Moms Movement, which was co-founded by Tiffany Justice, a Vero Island resident who served a tumultuous term in our school board, where she too often indulged in petty snipers with then-president Laura Zorc and oddly defended a clearly overwhelmed superintendent.
The moms claim to have 195 chapters in 37 states and nearly 100,000 members – not enough to fill the University of Michigan football stadium – and they have focused their political efforts on taking over school boards to change the culture. public education in America.
They say they defend parental rights, but they refuse to accept that their rights end when they infringe on the rights of other parents with different views.
They also say they will not co-parent with the professional educators who run our public schools, accusing teachers and administrators of trying to indoctrinate children into liberal beliefs.
They want to take our public schools back to the “happy days” era of the 1950s.
If they succeed?
It’s only a matter of time before teachers are no longer allowed to engage in discussions about controversial current events and social issues. Books that might make a single student uncomfortable would be removed from school libraries.
And, yes, it could happen here, where next week’s school board elections are likely to be crucial.
Locally, the Moms are a small but vocal fringe group who have spent as much time and effort attacking their naysayers and naysayers as they have backed their school board-approved candidates – District 2 incumbent Jackie Rosario and District 2 challenger. District 4 Thomas Kenny.
Everything indicates that moms do not represent the majority of parents who have children in our public schools, but they make noise.
Local moms leaders and a handful of supporters have been a constant presence at school board meetings, where for the past two years they have opposed mask mandates on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Critical Theory of race (which wasn’t taught here) and library books they mistakenly deemed pornographic.
The public comment segment of these meetings has at times become contentious, prompting the district to bring in additional sheriff’s deputies to provide security.
However, it’s during the current campaign season that the behavior of moms supporters — especially those backing Rosario, the movement’s sole voice at the school board — has become worrisome.
Overzealous supporters have attempted to intimidate political opponents at public events, such as the monthly Friday celebration in downtown Main Street Vero Beach, where they were seen shouting “This is the country of Rosario” and “We don’t want Democrats or RINOs (Republicans in name only).”
The antagonistic and confrontational tone of the downtown rallies convinced event organizers to ban political stalls, starting this month.
The Moms and Rosario supporters have also been active on social media, particularly on Facebook, where they dutifully rushed to their candidate’s defense and viciously attacked anyone who dared say or write anything that would cast her under. a negative day.
Armed with their own political hack impersonating an online journalist, they also resorted to smear campaigns against Rosario’s critics and challengers.
The campaign’s most repugnant political ploy, however, cannot be pinned on the moms or their supporters – although my former Press Journal colleague Russ Lemmon thinks Rosario’s supporters are behind it.
In a column last week in a 30,000-copy “special edition” of his locally distributed publication LemmonLines, Lemmon wrote that “racism is used as campaign strategy” and called it “the most sinister” tactic. that he has seen on a local level.
He then described the mysterious campaign signs, which included an unflattering photo of LaDonna Corbin, a black woman trying to overthrow Rosario, along with the words: “Crazy Corbin says Scan Me.”
The signs also bore a large QR code that, when scanned, took viewers to what appeared to be a fake Instagram account filled with content Lemmon said was “intended to infuriate a certain segment of the white population.”
It’s bad enough that Corbin, a political novice, was forced to explain earlier in her campaign a controversial TikTok video in which she appears to be having a mental health crisis – she claimed she was gambling – but from Targeting her with such an obviously racist stunt was despicable.
That’s why Lemmon valiantly tried in his column to connect the dots in an intricate puzzle to expose the evil mastermind behind the signs. Despite his investigative efforts, however, he acknowledged in writing that he had been unable to uncover enough evidence to establish a direct link to Rosario supporters.
As expected, the moms took to their keyboards to challenge Lemmon’s conclusion, criticize his journalism and question his motives. Some members of the group falsely claimed that the special edition was political advertising funded by one of Rosario’s opponents.
The flurry of comments posted on the LemmonLines Facebook page by Moms Section President Jennifer Pippin prompted Lemmon to block her because, he said, she was trying to “hack the page.”
Lemmon defended his decision to write and publish the column – production costs were covered solely by advertisements and he made no profit – saying he was sickened by the sordid attempt to introduce racism into an already passionate campaign.
Moms and their supporters, of course, will never believe it. They don’t believe anything they disagree with, regardless of the facts, and I don’t expect them to anymore.
Instead, I welcome their response, which sometimes goes beyond the banal “fake news” retort. Sometimes it’s funny, like when they say I work for Barefoot Media, because I’ve often agreed with school board member Brian Barefoot’s political positions.
The verbal insult I like the most, though, is when they call me “McNasty,” which might look good on a t-shirt.
It’s considerably better than what mums’ supporters have done to District 4 incumbent Teri Barenborg, the current board chair who earlier this year refused to give in to their demand that 150 pounds that the group deemed objectionable be removed from school libraries.
They created a low-key Facebook meme calling it “Baren-porn”.
Sadly, this is the mud-filled gutter down which moms supporters have dragged our local school board elections, now located at the unregulated intersection of politics, culture and education.
We’re supposed to vote for candidates based on their background, qualifications, ideas about education, and visions for the future of our public schools — not party allegiance.
Now, unfortunately, everything is political and everything is permitted.