This is Part IV 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’s focus is on the Alamance-Burlington School System:
In the area of the state between the Triangle and the Triad, the Alamance-Burlington School System is another district with a couple of candidates with disturbing, extreme views running for places on the school board.
Leonard Harrison says he’s running to get the “liberal agenda” out of district schools and has also said that he will work to keep CRT out of schools – pretty standard GOP positions. What sets Harrison apart from some of the other candidates already highlighted here are his horrifying views on gender and sexuality. On social media, Harrison seems to be openly transphobic and has celebrated states that banned gender-affirming health care for kids, he also says he’s concerned about the “feminization” of the West, has expressed hatred for President Joe Biden and said that Ketanji Brown Jackson should never have been nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Chuck Marsh also has concerning views on LGBTQ+ issues, according to his campaign page. Marsh, who loves posting about Jesus, has said he supports book bans on LGBTQ+ material and has criticized remote learning measures in schools. Marsh, who owns three radio stations and has a large following in the area, has previously said that “Boys are boys and girls are girls. Keep boys out of girls’ sports.”
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.