The Silencing of Parents
Now reverberating beyond the walls of rowdy kindergarten classrooms, the sound of shushing has become the siren song of school districts throughout the country.
Parents, concerned about spiking suicide rates, shuttered schools, and screen-saturated students are speaking up. They are composing emails, compiling letter campaigns, calling continually, and coming to meetings.
Once the redheaded stepchild of political positions, school boards have been thrust into the national spotlight. Union tensions, plummeting enrollment, and the invasion of cancel culture into the classroom are putting largely unprecedented public pressure on these elected officials and their districts.
And they simply can’t take it.
Rather than rise to the occasion, districts throughout America would rather suppress speech and sweep problems under the rug.
School Districts Making Moves to Stifle Parental Input
In one Florida County, the five-member board, in a seemingly innocuous move, voted to move public comments to the end of their meeting. This means busy parents rushing from work, must not only arrive early if they’d like to speak, but then are required to trudge through the board’s entire agenda before being afforded the opportunity to express concerns. Never mind that the board may have already discussed or voted on the very thing a concerned parent wished to address.
Other districts conveniently use COVID guidelines to silence parents by making meetings virtual, limiting attendance or otherwise restricting public access. When able to attend, parents can still face intimidation and silencing tactics. After speaking out, one mother removed her mask on the way out of the building and was harassed, tackled by school district police and eventually charged with trespassing, barring her from returning to the building for a full year.
Such dramatic tactics are not required to silence the public though. Who would want to take time out of a busy weeknight with soccer, homework and other activities beckoning to be publicly dismissed and talked down to by officials perched on a dais above them?
Parents can be the early warning system to alert of trouble within the education system if anyone would listen. Parents worry about what is being taught to their children. Is it correct? Is it biased? Is it enough? They are concerned about class sizes, teacher quality, overcrowding, lack of supplies and so much more. But…with all these blips on the radar it can be easy for parents to miss the real danger lurking.
The Real Monster Under the Bed
The real monster under the bed in public education is the slow erosion of parental rights. Parents are lulled into a sense of security when the school nurse has to call to tell them little Johnny scraped his knee, or they are invited into the school for orientation meetings. Is the school informing them when it really matters though? Too often the answer is “no.”
One mother found out that, without her knowledge or consent, teachers and administration had been using a different name and set of pronouns for her middle schooler for months on end. Too often parents of special needs children are only alerted to an issue within the classroom when their child arrives home with scratches or bruising.
Reality is there is no seat at the adult table for parents in public education. While the teachers union, senior staff, advisors, and advocacy groups feast on the meat and potatoes of a child’s future, parents are relegated to the kids table. There they sit shoved into short chairs, knees to their chest holding a plate full of Jell-O because that is all the system thinks they can handle.
The system is wrong.
Parents are Being Treated Like a Threat
Public education is a partnership. In reality, the responsibility to educate a child lies with the parents. As legal guardians, they have a duty to protect, care for, and educate their children. Most parents choose to do that by collaborating with a public or private school. The only way this partnership thrives is if it is balanced. When the school begins to see themselves as a majority partner, parental rights inevitably suffer.
This slow encroachment on fundamental parental rights is usually done by omission. If a school district rule said in big, bold letters, “LEAVE THE PARENTS IN THE DARK THEY CAN’T BE TRUSTED.” there is little chance parents would let it slide. Instead, the rules leave parents out completely. Take for example this section of a policy from one district:
“All LGBTQ+ students have the right to decide when and to whom their gender identity and sexual orientation is shared.”
Seems reasonable right?! No one thinks a teacher or the school counselor should be outing a child willy-nilly, but did you see what is missing?
Parents. Parents are missing.
According to this guideline, and evidenced by practice, this school district has no requirement to notify a parent if their child expresses a desire to transition to another gender. The district has left parental notification completely up to the minor child.
If districts believe that to be good practice, they should employ that strategy in other areas. Let’s try grades or attendance. “You know you’re failing math Derek, so make sure you tell your mother.” *insert eye roll here*
Common sense dictates if parents have a right to know about grades and attendance, they should know about something as serious as a child struggling with their gender identity. Your school district likely believes they must protect your child from YOU.
Digest that one for a moment.
How would you feel partnering with someone who views you as a threat?
Parents Must Take Back their Power
In a now infamous viral video one school board let the entire world know what they think of parents when they suggested anyone complaining about schools being closed only wanted their babysitters back. It couldn’t possibly be that parents want their children to learn, grow academically, and discover new interests.
Parents must take back the power in this partnership. No matter the silencing tactics, they must speak out. No matter how they are put down, parents must stand up. No matter the excuses, they must hold elected officials accountable.
The surest foundation for liberty in America is a proper education. If we continue to ignore the fissures in that foundation we will watch our liberties crumble around us. Our children need to understand the basics of the world around them to improve it. They need to be acquainted with the facts of history to not repeat it’s mistakes. Rather than regurgitating information, children must be taught to think critically. American innovation and excellence depend on these crucial skills.
Fixing our foundation requires parents, lots of them. Parents do not need to be education policy experts; they are experts on their children. Moms, Dads, Grandparents, Aunts, and Uncles must become familiar with how our education system functions. They must attend a school board meeting and get to know their representatives. They must volunteer in classrooms, meet teachers, and build relationships with administration. They must make their voices heard when trouble arises.