This is Part V, the final piece in an ongoing series looking at right-wing extremists who won their primary races for positions on school boards across North Carolina.
Despite much of the talk in North Carolina this election cycle likely focusing on the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Cheri Beasley and right-wing extremist Rep. Ted Budd, the most important races might actually be happening on the hyperlocal level – your county’s school board.
Calling them “highly contested” and “fueled by parents” and conservatives, a recent CNN article looked at school board races in North Carolina, highlighting those in Forsyth, Johnston, Durham, New Hanover and Wake counties.
Board races across the state are being looked at as referendums on the decisions districts made regarding remote learning and masking during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as how districts are handling discussions in their schools around topics such as sex, race, history and gender identity.
A number of candidates running in the counties highlighted by CNN cited Critical Race Theory, learning loss due to remote classes during the pandemic and “parental rights” as their reasons for running, so it’s not surprising that primaries for school board seats across the state featured multiple candidates whose views can best be described as “extreme” and “alarming.”
In our fifth and final article, we’ll be looking at Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools system has multiple districts with seats up for grabs and, unsurprisingly, there are multiple Republican candidates with extreme views – including a former nurse who borders on being a COVID denier and anti-vaxxer.
First up is District 2 where former North Carolina State House Rep. Steve Wood is running for a seat on the board. Wood served from 1984 until 2005 and was known as a big advocate for charter schools. Wood told Triad City Beat in an interview that critical race theory is “wokeism at its worst” and “divisive and morally repugnant… The poisonous heart of CRT is that one group of people, by virtue of merely existing, are morally problematic and always will be.” When asked by the paper about LGBTQ+ rights, he said “No group rights should be paramount over individual rights as provided in the Constitution. Leveling all playing fields is a fool’s errand.”
The At-Large District has four seats open and Republican candidates Sarah Absher and Michael Hardman are hoping to implement their right-wing views on the school board.
Absher, who was a nurse before she quit because “she knew she couldn’t in good conscience stick with the common narrative on COVID-19,” says on her campaign website that the government should not be co-parenting with students’ parents and therefore there should never again be mask mandates or school closures due to COVID-19. She also says that parents should be the only ones to teach kids about morality.
As for Hardman, his campaign Facebook page shows his support for the Back to Basics plan, which would prevent schools from implementing social-emotional learning in the classroom, as well as ban CRT lessons (that schools aren’t even teaching) and instead focus on math, writing and reading without political agenda or bias.
What’s interesting, and not at all surprising, about these right-wing candidates is that they nearly all say they want to keep politics out of the classroom, yet their entire campaigns and beliefs are purely political and based on false information they’ve heard from conservative politicians and media outlets.
A common thread among these candidates is their belief that critical race theory has infiltrated the classroom and is being taught to their children. The simple fact is that CRT is not something that is being taught in North Carolina schools – although it should be if we want to give our children an accurate depiction of America’s history – and despite what these candidates say, polls show that a majority of parents, across political lines, approve of their children’s schools and support what is currently being taught.
Although it’s unlikely these school board races will get much, if any, media attention, voters should consider the importance of proper education for our state’s children when they fill out their ballot. Voters are being presented with two starkly different choices – one set of candidates (overwhelmingly Democrats) believe that students should be supported, treated with respect and taught factual information while the other (Republicans) appears to simply be hellbent on scoring political points among a very vocal minority of parents – to the detriment of North Carolina’s education system.
These extremist Republicans are using our public schools to further divide our communities along racial and political lines. Radical Republicans are hurting our public schools with their extremist views, from trying to ban books and censor discussions in our classrooms, to denigrating educators and failing to fully fund schools.
Regardless of political affiliation, voters should choose the candidates who will once again make public schools a place where we can all come together and work to succeed, candidates who know that every child deserves a quality education, candidates who want to increase funding for public schools and teachers, and candidates who know that investing in North Carolina’s public schools now will mean a stronger economy and future for our state.