This is Part III of 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.”
This week we’re looking at New Hanover County:
Over near the coast, New Hanover County will have two Republicans on the ballot with disturbing and controversial views – Melissa Mason and Pat Bradford.
On her campaign Facebook page, Mason, who has been endorsed by the Republican Liberty Caucus, talks about indoctrination in schools, parental rights in regard to education and also uses quotes from North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. Mason calls herself the most conservative candidate running in New Hanover County and also called the school district’s policy on gender support for students “grooming” – a term often associated with the act of adults trying to “win the confidence of (a victim) in order to a commit sexual assault on him or her,” according to Dictionary.com.
As for Bradford, she also focuses on parental rights on her campaign’s Facebook page. On her campaign website, she describes herself as “a pro-life, pro-law enforcement, Constitutionalist and political outsider who will bring order and common sense to the chaos on the school board.” She also says that she’s running for the school board because “the pendulum has swung too far to the left.”
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.