Opinion: The far right is coming for your school board – Greenwich Time


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Right-wing political extremists have brought a campaign of disinformation to Guilford, targeting our Board of Education in a local election that has divided our town. Maybe our story will sound like what’s happening in your town, or in a town in Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire or Washington. Make no mistake: These are no minor elections. The threat the far right poses to the future of our schools, our communities and our country is real. Just as real is the power of our votes to stop them.In Guilford, five right-wing Republicans won a primary for the Board of Education election, displacing a group of moderate Republicans. In their attempt to take over our Board of Education and dictate what will be taught in our schools, they ran as the “Truth in Education” ticket. Their primary agenda item: “Stop Critical Race Theory in Guilford.” But critical race theory is not taught in Guilford. That’s their founding lie.

They and their supporters appear to be following a script that’s full of bizarre claims and misrepresentations of the truth.

They wouldn’t be alone. Recent attacks on local school boards — which have become so outrageous that several towns, including Branford, have asked for police protection at board meetings — sound a lot like the rhetoric of the national right wing movement, Citizens for Renewing America, run by Trump operatives.

The CRA’S strategy: Frighten people into pushing back against an imaginary enemy.

Truth in Education Republicans in Guilford describe critical race theory as an “evil, divisive, Marxist anti-American ideology that calls for dismantling and replacing all of our cherished American institutions including our Constitution, our government, our legal system, Capitalism, the nuclear family, religion, education, law enforcement, private property, and individualism.”

The rhetoric of these absurd charges appears to be modeled on the CRA’s Toolkit: Combatting Critical Race Theory in Your Community. The CRA’s extremist agenda, like the Guilford Republicans’, takes refuge behind the language of the Civil Rights movement and the Declaration of Independence. The CRA Toolkit opens with a quote from Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech; the Guilford Truth in Education’s site closes with the same quote.

The Guilford Republican appear to be following the Model School Board Language to Prohibit Critical Race Theory from the CRA website, including a host of “Definitions” and “Prohibitions.”

If those CRA provisions are adopted by a school board, the principal would be charged with the duty to enforce them.

Perhaps most chilling is Section 4, Penalties. Any school that violates the prohibitions covering the teaching of race would be sanctioned. Further, any school employee who violates these prohibitions — or uses any of 88 terms in Section 5, including “equity,” “racial healing” and “restorative justice” — would, upon first offense, be placed on 30 days of administrative leave without pay. “Upon second offense, the employee shall be terminated; and the school shall issue a public statement reiterating its commitment to upholding the fundamental American idea that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This is fascism wrapped in the flag. Yet these extremist views have won support among local citizens who may have little understanding of the consequences of such a program.

Guilford’s Truth in Education Republicans include the same list on their website, highlighting 38 of the terms they say have been used by our superintendent of schools and current members of our board of education. If elected, would they attempt to impose such repressive provisions and punishments on teachers and administrators in Guilford schools?

Who are these Citizens for Renewing America, the group that the Guilford Republican slate have apparently learned from? What does the CRA want? Its president is Russell Vought, former director of Trump’s Office of Management and Budget. It was Vought, at Trump’s behest, who enforced the terms of Executive Order 13950 of September 2020, requiring all agencies in the federal government to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on critical race theory or white privilege, which Vought immediately defunded.

On his first day in office, President Biden revoked the order. But Vought and his organization now mean to enforce their intent at the local level: Their model language for taking over school boards copies verbatim the definitions of “Divisive Concepts” to be suppressed and punished from Trump’s executive order, and they have evidently found enablers here in Guilford.

Who is running in your town? Are they echoing the rhetoric of the Citizens for Renewing America? Organize, create your own website, distribute yard signs, send postcards advising people how and where to register to vote or get a mail-in ballot, organize a letter to the editor campaign. Educate yourselves and your neighbors. Do it now.

Each little local election is a preamble to the midterms of 2022, and ultimately to the presidential race of 2024. The party of the big lie, of insurrection and voter suppression, will not stop trying to impose its radical extremist agenda unless voters who care about the survival of our democracy show up and stop them. In Guilford, that means voting for the bipartisan slate — rows A and C — who pledge to protect Guilford schools.

Patricia Klindienst lives in Guilford. She is the recipient of an American Book Award for her stories of immigrant and ethnic gardeners,

“The Earth Knows My Name.”

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