There’s a rising sense among scholars, reporters who cover K-12 education, and school administrators themselves that something new and scary is happening. School board meetings are becoming more contentious, at times even violent, in a way they haven’t in decades. These conflicts stem primarily from parents angry about “critical race theory” and school masking policies, as well as measures to accommodate trans students, such as gender-neutral bathrooms.
“Controversies at school board meetings are definitely not new. But my sense is that threats of violence at school board meetings are up markedly,” said Joseph Kahne, a professor of education policy at UC Riverside.
There isn’t much systematic data on this rash of threats, seemingly because they’re so new. “I suspect the reason we don’t have data on such threats is that, in general, threats have been so rare and localized that the data is not aggregated,” Kahne told me. “But recently such threats have become far more common.”
In a recent article, the New York Times’s Alan Feuer documented a significant number of violent threats against school board members and teachers — including an incident near Sacramento, California, where “one entire school board had to flee its chamber after protesters accosted the members.”