Sunday reading: when the Stealth Slate wins the school board

Stealth slates of GOP candidates tried to unseat Democratic incumbents in Durham and Orange County school board races last month. Although neither was successful, a number of candidates did surprisingly well in solidly blue districts, which Duke historian Nancy MacLean says is “a disturbing sign that the MAGA faction that overtook the national party has many local supporters” in an interview with the INDIA.

The pervasiveness of the national GOP movement to overtake school boards — and the disturbing rhetoric conservative board members push when seated — is exposed in an investigation ProPublica piece this week from journalist Nicole Carr. It chronicles the series of events that led to a black educator being fired from two Georgia school districts.

The story follows Cecilia Lewis, a middle school principal who has been hired to fulfill Cherokee County’s first-ever administrator role in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Before she even went to work, parents, school board members and local officials launched a smear campaign to oust Lewis – and to abolish the newly created position of DEI – claiming she intended brainwash students with Critical Race Theory (CRT) and teach them to “hate their own country”.

Of the history:

National groups, often through their local chapters, have provided video lessons and toolkits to parents across the country on how to effectively spread their messages about so-called school indoctrination. Parents Defending Education has created “indoctrination maps” charting everything from a district celebrating “Black Lives Matter Week” to a district allowing students to watch CNN Student News, while Atlanta-based Education Veritas and Kahaian’s Protect Student Health Georgia provides portals to anonymously report educators supposedly sympathetic to CRT, DEI, and other supposedly controversial learning concepts.

Following the 2020 summer of racial reckoning, as the work of anti-racism authors topped best-seller lists and companies expressed renewed commitments to diversity initiatives, the Conservatives launched a counter-offensive against what they saw as an anti-white, anti-“woke” American liberal agenda.

As Carr later notes, CRT is rarely, if ever, taught in K-12 school systems. Until Cherokee County parents launched their attacks, Lewis hadn’t even heard of CRT — she assumed it meant “culturally appropriate teaching.”

Regardless, the smear campaign persuaded the Cherokee County superintendent to eliminate the DEI role, and Lewis decided to take a job as a social studies supervisor in neighboring Cobb County instead. Parents and school board members also kicked her out of that district.

While the majority of Cherokee County residents voted for Trump in 2020, Cobb County, like Durham, is still pretty blue, with more than 50% of its school district populated by minority students. And, like Durham, a slate of white Conservative candidates ran in the last Cobb school board election. The difference is that they won.

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