This year, there is nothing staid or routine about many of the school board elections across the state of Colorado, or the nation for that matter. Even in normally calm mountain school districts of Chaffee County and Summit County, there is turmoil beneath the normally placid waters, with some candidates running for school boards who won’t appear at public forums, who appear unwilling to answer media questions, and in at least one case, who aren’t revealing the sources of the unusually large donations they are receiving.
National Disinformation Chaos
In school district after school district across the nation, the extreme views exposed by the national mantra of former President Donald Trump and the right-wing state candidacies perpetuate the Big Lie; that voter fraud occurred in the 2020 election. While this is not true, it continues to pollute this year’s coordinated election.
The actual national directives making the rounds express the worst of the disinformation regarding “you name it”: election conspiracy theories, claims that those who didn’t vote for Trump are communists, undermining of county election officials, cabals of satan-worshipers, the uproar over obscure theories that are barely taught in graduate-level coursework, let alone public schools.
Alongside the chaos and violence, there is a parallel effort to replace incumbent school board members with right-wing ideologues who oppose public safety measures and teaching students about racism. That they are running, by and large, as non-partisan, may reveal a concerted effort to hide their true agendas.
That the chaos has trickled down to the local level is not an accident. As early as March, 2020, Ark Valley Voice obtained a copy of a Chaffee GOP missive that directed local Republicans to join as many local groups as possible, to protest school policies, and to run for school board; saying that the goal is to create a majority presence within groups.
“We desire all of our members to consider becoming involved in Chaffee County institutions,” the latest message reads. “Our goals are to help the valley reinstate our past western heritage of security, freedom, independence, and cooperation.” It goes on to urge GOP members to get involved in organizations such as Turning Point USA, Wall Builders, Constitution Alive, Chaffee County Patriots, A-21, Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation and the Pregnancy Center; etc.
The disinformation campaign behind candidates across the state is being dished out at the national level and is finding its way in bits and pieces of claims lifted from Trump communications and through the national GOP into state-level communications. The name given by Republican operative Steve Bannon to that process: a “Trumplified Republican Party”
Behind the heightened attention on school board races is a loose network of conservative groups with ties to major Republican donors and party-aligned think tanks urging local activists and parents to engaged in culture war fights in schools across the country. They might begin with concerns of parents opposed to school policies on racial history or COVID-19 protocols like mask mandates, the groups are often run by political operatives and lawyers standing ready to amplify local disputes.
After interviewing the new Chaffee GOP Chair Alan Seeling, who’s charm offensive did not provide any information about the group’s goals or programs, Ark Valley Voice has seen the recent Chaffee GOP communications about their goals. It contains segments pulled from various national and state GOP communiques, and goes on to confirm that the county GOP is “working directly on school board elections supporting organizations that are putting on School Board Forums; and on the State GOP Election Integrity Committee, attempting to swim upstream against the Democratic machine that is attempting to institute election changes that would overwhelm any attempts to limit voting to the real citizens, here and statewide.”
According to Seeling, the Chaffee GOP is developing “a website where citizens can go to retrieve the latest news and information … called the Chaffee County Clearing House.”
Campaigns of Grievance and Denial
In more than 1,300 school districts across the country, furious, vocal, and sometimes armed right-wing parents and agitators have shown up at school board meetings, disrupting proceedings, vocal and in social media threats to school board members, school administrators, teachers, and pubic health officials. In fact, the militia group the Proud Boys has begun working with parent protest groups and conservative school board candidates in several states, instructing them in how to disrupt and threaten elected officials, school administrations, and teachers.
Their grievances: everything from COVID-19 testing, to school mandates for protective facemasks, and COVID vaccines. But it doesn’t stop there. These agitators’ threats include objecting to school curriculums, demanding classroom cameras, complaining that their children are being made to feel guilt over discussions of racism, and general (misinformed) ideas that communists are taking over schools.
In Southlake Texas, a suburb on the edge of Dallas, a minority of parent complaints about their kids reading from books that cover racism, slavery, and now the Holocaust, have led the Carroll Independent School District to begin to ban books.
A Carroll staff member secretly recorded the Friday training and shared the audio of a top school official with NBC News:
“Just try to remember the concepts of [House Bill] 3979,” Peddy said in the recording, referring to a new Texas law that requires teachers to present multiple perspectives when discussing “widely debated and currently controversial” issues. “And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust,” Peddy continued, “that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”
“How do you oppose the Holocaust?” one teacher said in response.
“Believe me,” Peddy said. “That’s come up.”
Another teacher wondered aloud if she would have to pull down “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry, or other historical novels that tell the story of the Holocaust from the perspective of victims. It’s not clear if Peddy heard the question in the commotion or if she answered.
It makes one wonder if next, we may hear that “The Diary of Anne Frank” is banned in Texas.
Featured image: Aug. 12, 2021, file photo, protesters against a COVID-19 mandate gesture as they are escorted out of the Clark County School Board meeting at the Clark County Government Center, in Las Vegas. Photo by Associated Press.
Editor’s notes: this is Part I of a two-part examination of school board races. In Part II, we’ll examine the interesting financial aspects of some campaigns.
Your ad claims to be an unbiased news source… HUGE joke this one article proves that more times than I can count.. part of being unbiased is reporting on both viewpoints and letting the reader decide, rather than do that you attacked one side nonstop. DISGUSTING Journalism (if it can even be called that)
Justin we’re glad you read our article about the abuse being heaped on school boards across this nation, and the coordinated effort of which it is a part.
No Justin, that is not journalism to “report both sides equally” –IN fact, not all sides are equal — or true. We report truth and we report news in as timely a manner as possible. The continued and nation-wide spread of verbal and physical abuse being heaped on school boards, school administration and public health is not normal, and it is being perpetrated by one side that has been dis-informed.
Example – there are not two sides to the Holocaust. Adolph Hitler and his Nazis were monsters who killed millions of innocent people; men, women and children; Jews, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Roma, and white Christians who disagreed with fascism. This is factual and documented. There is no other side and no justification for such horrendous evil.
You may not want to hear the truth, but we suggest that you broaden the sources from which you are getting your “news” because it’s propaganda and not truth.
This article sounds like it came from an independent, unbiased organization! NOT! I’ve yet to read one article or news story where anyone came into a school board meeting armed with a weapon. Unless you’re referring to the weapon of “truth”! I’ve read articles where school board members lied about curriculum content and about sexual assaults not happening when in fact they did happen. Maybe you should be a little more truthful in presenting information and then maybe I’ll believe you truly are an independent and unbiased organization.
Tom, this article covered the national scene, and references to threats were at the state and national level, with source links. School boards have now had to ask for police protection for their meetings. Your narrow definition of “coming to school board meetings armed” completely overlooks the threats being made to school board members, the doxing, the protestors outside the homes of school board members and public health officials.
Those ARE threats, and they ARE happening in this state and at the national level. As far as we know this has not happened at the local level, or we would have heard of it and reported it. Perhaps you should check your sources for “lies about curriculum content”. Those getting all hot and bothered about what school boards have been doing during a global pandemic appear to be those pushing the Trump disinformation agenda.
Thank you, Jan. I’m SO sick of this baloney right-wing stuff.
If I sent you an anonymous letter, or even just screamed at you in an elementary school parking lot, that I know where you live, and I promised to come to your house in the middle of the night with violent intentions because I don’t like your politics, you wouldn’t consider that a threat?
Offended by my hypothetical? Why? That is exactly the behavior of the people that you seem to be defending, but I guess threatening people with political violence is ok with the Trump cultists and qanon morons, as long as the people doing the threatening are the “right people”, such as the “patriot” trash that stormed the Capitol on January 6th, or the idiots who take Q seriously.
You’re not Patriots. You’re suckers, sore losers, and criminals who are dumb enough to think that traitor trash like Ashli Babbitt is some kind of hero.