by Mary Miller
It is probably an understatement to say that when one group designates another as a terrorist organization, diplomatic relations between the two become strained.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights.”
Truths. Equal. Creator. Rights. Concerned parents want schools to teach truths, not ideologies; operate under equality, not equity; and respect faith in our Creator and our parental rights. These are the fundamental principles from our Declaration that are at stake in American education today.
So it’s not surprising that parent groups around the country have reacted strongly to the National School Board Association’s September 29 letter to Joe Biden invoking the PATRIOT Act to combat the “domestic terrorism” of concerned parents speaking out at school board meetings. and Attorney General Merrick Garland’s response.
After reading the Department of Justice letter, Asra Nomani, vice president of investigations and strategy at Parents Defending Education tweeted: “US Attorney General issued a declaration of war on parents.”
It has come to this.
There has been a declaration of war on parents. The reason? Parents are complaining about an education system that seems like it has declared war on their children and on the American way of life. In order to de-escalate the situation, both sides need to agree that children should not be POWs forced to attend schools with which their parents profoundly disagree. School choice—liberty in education—is the only workable peace treaty.
To understand why parents want to declare their independence from public schools, a bill of indictment may be of some use.
Here are the facts.
The NSBA engaged in a breathtaking display of hyperbole when it requested “Federal Assistance to Stop Threats and Acts of Violence Against Public Schoolchildren, Public School Board Members, and Other Public School District Officials and Educators.”
Really? Concerned parents complaining about schools are committing “acts of violence against public schoolchildren?” There’s no excuse for bad behavior. But let’s see the police reports.
And since I live in the Portland, Oregon metro area, let me provide some perspective. The irony burns that when Portland was on fire last year during months-long protests, our leaders prevented the feds from stepping in, the district attorney refused to prosecute Antifa, and the Portland Public School district banned police from its high school campuses.
This isn’t about student safety. This is about tarring parents with the brush of terrorism. This is an attempt to silence and intimidate. This is weaponizing the Justice Department, for political purposes.
According to the NSBA letter, “critical race theory is not taught in public schools and remains a complex law school and graduate school subject well beyond the scope of a K-12 class.” And for parents to claim otherwise is “propaganda.”
That is a lie.
Unfortunately, CRT—the contention that society is inherently racist and constructed by whites at the expense of people of color—is alive and well in Portland-area schools, to name just one example.
This spring, the Oregon Department of Education paid “1619 Project” creator Nikole Hannah-Jones $50,000 for two 1619-related webinars for teachers and students. But the talk—like the project—wasn’t really about 1619.
As I wrote in May, it was clear from the discussion that the “‘1619’ and ‘systemic racism’ narratives of America as primarily a land of oppression rather than a land of hope and opportunity have a purpose. They can be used in Oregon’s classrooms to politicize history and gain youth support for proposed ‘solutions’ discussed by the panelists: wealth redistribution, land reparations, defunding the police, universal healthcare, and progressive changes to urban design, transportation, and education.” The point seems to be less about “correcting” American history and more about controlling America’s future.
Which takes us back to the Declaration of Independence. Teachers working to tear down our founding principles is a toxic notion. Pushing ideologies over academics hurts kids, and our country. Most parents know this.
Sheepdogged By the School Board
The NSBA letter also complains about “attacks against school board members and educators for approving policies for masks to protect the health and safety of students and school employees.”
Two weeks to stop the spread has turned into two years of theater. In Oregon, a total of five people under 19—all with underlying health conditions—have died with COVID since the beginning of the pandemic.
The New York Times has reported CDC data showing kids’ risk of dying of COVID is less than that of flu or drowning, and kids are 10 times less likely to die from COVID than in a vehicle accident. Moreover, has anyone seen a robust scientific study proving the efficacy of cloth masks in stopping the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus?
Yet on July 29, Oregon Governor Kate Brown ordered a mask mandate for everyone two years and older in all public and private schools. “A school that violates this rule on or after August 12 is subject to a civil penalty of $500 per day per violation.” As I wrote in August, “I question the premise that masking kids in school for years—which hinders language acquisition, social and emotional well-being, and of course breathing—isn’t immoral or unjust. Delta doesn’t trump child development.”
This isn’t about safety. It’s about creating compliant kids. And it’s an assault on one of America’s founding principles: liberty.
School choice is the solution.
The NSBA letter and Justice Department response point to an escalation in tensions over the education of America’s kids. Administrators, teachers unions, and even school boards on one side, parents on the other. Both sides are dug in and fighting from the trenches. But it is kids who have been dropped into no man’s land, caught in the crossfire.
Could mask policies be the issue that ends the war?
On October 4, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers—and rabid opponent of school choice—tweeted support for a mom who had pulled her kids out of a public school that didn’t require masks and enrolled them in a private school that did. Her words “parent chooses” were music to parents’ ears. And “a nationwide poll by Echelon Insights in August found that 79% of respondents with an opinion support allowing families to take their children’s taxpayer-provided education money to a private or home school if their public school doesn’t mandate masks.”
But what if the NSBA and the Justice Department are right about everything? That parents are domestic terrorists, that CRT isn’t being taught, that masks are necessary, and that the FBI should focus on families rather than Antifa?
Even if all that were true, school choice is still the solution to de-escalating the situation. It puts parents in their proper place: in charge of their own children.
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Mary Miller is an advocate for faith, families, and education. She consults for several education-related nonprofit organizations in the Portland, Oregon metro area and holds two business degrees from UCLA. Follow her on Twitter @marymillertweet.