Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #31

Welcome to Hall Pass, a newsletter written to keep you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues:  The debate over Ohio’s law that makes it easier for teachers to carry firearms in classrooms
  • In your district: reader replies on policies around books
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues: The debate over Ohio’s law that makes it easier for teachers to carry firearms in classrooms

In this section, we curate reporting, analysis, and commentary on the issues school board members deliberate when they set out to offer the best education possible in their district.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed legislation June 13 making it easier for teachers to carry firearms in school safety zones. The law took effect Sept. 12. This section examine the debate over the law and its effects. 

Washington Post opinion columnist Christine Emba writes that the Ohio bill will not effectively reduce or deter gun violence in schools. Emba says the legislature neglected its duty to enact stricter gun regulations and instead used the teacher gun law to distract from what she says are legitimate solutions.

Ohio state Sen. Jerry Cirino (R) writes that tight gun regulations do not work in places they are tried. Cirino says armed teachers would effectively stop school shooters. He also says children have a right to be defended with firearms and that Emba would sacrifice children for politics.

Opinion | Ohio Republicans’ proposal to arm teachers is an act of cowardice | Christine Emba, The Washington Post

“[T]he Ohio GOP would rather create an ouroboros of guns — mass shooters faced by teacher shooters who themselves shoot back, everyone armed to the hilt — than entertain the obvious and less convoluted solution: gun regulation that would keep deadly firearms out of the hands of potential killers, and out of our classrooms, in the first place. That such suggestions are coming to the table at all tells us something significant about the state of our politics — and many of our politicians. As with so many national problems that need collective solutions, the GOP would prefer to shift the burden to individuals. … Proposing that we arm teachers to prevent school shootings is an abdication of common sense and legislative duty.”

Opinion | When teachers are the ones with guns in classrooms | Jerry Cirino, The Washington Post

“Ms. Emba apparently doesn’t think children are worth protecting with guns. She prefers more gun regulation. How are strict gun regulations working out in Chicago? How did relying on 911 work out in Uvalde, Tex.? Ms. Emba suggested armed teachers wouldn’t stop shooters. But the Crime Prevention Research Center has documented 43 incidents since 2014 when a citizen with a gun stopped a likely mass shooting. Not one innocent bystander was shot. Ms. Emba called the people behind this bill spineless cowards for choosing to protect our children with trained armed guards. That makes no sense. Unless she doesn’t care about our children. Just a radical agenda to strip our right to self-defense. She would sacrifice our children for politics. That is worse than cowardice.”

In your district: reader replies on policies around books

We recently asked readers the following question about how school boards should set policy on books in school districts:

School boards are responsible for setting policies around books—including which books to select and whether to ban or prohibit certain books. What are your views about how school boards should set policy surrounding books in school districts?

Thank you to all who responded. Today, we’re sharing a handful of those responses. We’ll return in October with another reader question. If you have ideas for questions we should ask in the future, reply to this email to let us know!

A school board member from Oregon wrote

“Books are going to be selected. All books cannot be used, there are too many. Someone has to set the criteria for how and what books are selected. The community through its elected school board should set the criteria. This is not book banning or censorship.”

A high school junior from Colorado wrote:

“I think that in schools, the conversation on what material to ban or restrict should include the students. Perhaps the students could take a survey, and the results could be considered by the school board. Another option is for the school to have students take a vote, which would count as one or multiple votes on the school board. Children aren’t unintelligent, and they deserve the chance to represent their interests and values.”

A community member from Florida wrote

“Education means learning about everything. Teachers should not teach what parents find acceptable. They must teach about the world and everything in it and that includes both the good and bad things. Children’s worlds open up by reading and studying. By limiting what they read we limit the children’s ability to grow. If they are only allowed to learn about things their parents find acceptable they will become very one sided individuals. Some of my best discussions with my children happened when they learned something I didn’t know and they shared it with me. I encouraged them to challenge ideas so they could process the information they were given and make their own decisions.”

A community member from South Carolina wrote:

“Yes. Books teaching anything of a sexual nature, CRT or SEL should not be in the curriculum.”

A teacher from Virginia wrote:

“Generally, students should be exposed to a wide spectrum of ideas. Grade level books in a wide variety of fields should be available in school libraries. Of course, some restrictions on appropriate content might be required, but this should be minimized as much as possible. One good compromise could be automatic alerts sent to parents each time their child checks out a book with its title and author.”

A school board member from Montana wrote:

“I do not feel the board should be spending time banning books. Students should have access to a wide-variety of books available in the library with little interference from the school board. Books used in the classroom must be part of approved curriculum. The curriculum is approved by the school board after being available for the public to review and comment. Once the curriculum has been adopted we have a process to challenge items. This process seems to work well for our district.”

A community member from Massachusetts wrote:

“There should be full transparency with parents around the policies by which curriculum and books are selected. It appears that much is hidden from the parents/public around what is required to be incorporated into curriculum and books based on funding (government & private).”

A school board member from Missouri wrote:

“Boards should have little or no involvement in book issues. Policy should allow parents to challenge books and create a committee including librarians, teachers, parents, and students to hear such challenges and make written recommendations to Supt. Appeal to board may be unnecessary to include in policy. And boards should not become activist in book selection! This would be micro-managing of the worst kind!”

Another community member from South Carolina wrote

“I think school boards should put parental advisory on books with gender ideology and critical race theory. Parents should have to opt their child IN to being able access those books in school libraries. If they are not opted in, the librarian should not allow them to access those books.”

Extracurricular: education news from around the web

This section contains links to recent education-related articles from around the internet. If you know of a story we should be reading, reply to this email to share it with us! 

Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district

Today, we’re highlighting survey responses from the Nov. 8 general election for Chandler Unified School District Governing Board At-large in Arizona. Chandler Unified School District is Arizona’s second largest by enrollment, with over 43,000 students. Two seats are up for election. 

Five candidates are running in the nonpartisan race. Incumbent Lara Bruner and Kurt Rohrs completed Ballotpedia’s survey. Excerpts from their responses are included below. 

Here’s how Bruner, who was first elected in 2018, answered the question “Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

  • “All CUSD children deserve excellent teachers dedicated to continual growth through district and outside professional development opportunities.
  • “All CUSD children deserve evidence-based curricula at the appropriate level of rigor, whether they perform at grade level, need interventions, or require acceleration and enrichment.
  • “All CUSD children deserve physically and emotionally safe schools where they can thrive.”

Click here to read the rest of Bruner’s responses. 

Here’s how Rohrs answered the question “Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

  • “Education Fundamentals should be the primary focus of Curriculum. Achieve Minimum 50% Reading and Math proficiency at all schools.
  • “Political and Social Activism has no place in our classrooms. Don’t use Classrooms to promote personal agendas.
  • “Let Teachers Teach. Provide a safe, supportive, and secure environment for teachers to practice their craft.”

Click here to read the rest of Rohrs’ responses. 

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here to take the survey. If you’re not running for school board but there is an election in your community this year, share the link with the candidates and urge them to take the survey!