Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #36

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 critical race theory and whether its ideas make white students feel guilty for their skin color
  • School board general election previews: Florida and California
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web

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On the issues: The debate over critical race theory and whether it makes white students feel guilty about their skin color

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.

A recent subtopic of the debate over critical race theory about whether the ideas of critical race theory cause children in schools to feel guilt over the color of their skin. 

Jonathan Butcher and Mike Gonzalez write that when CRT is used to develop K-12 curricula it can teach white children that they contribute to white supremacy because of their skin color, even if their actions are not racist. The authors say ideas of systemic oppression that separate children into categories of oppressed people and oppressors based on skin color violate federal law and hurt white and non-white students. 

Christie Nold and Ursula Wolfe-Rocca write that some history is ugly and can naturally cause some white children to feel guilty about their skin color. The authors say such lessons are not inherently discriminatory and should still be taught. They say teachers can help students work through complex feelings of guilt and help them channel their feelings into supporting what the authors call racial justice.  

Keep Racist Critical Race Theory Ideology Out of K-12 Classrooms | Jonathan Butcher and Mike Gonzalez, The Heritage Foundation

“How would you feel if your child came home from school and said her teacher had told her that everything that happens in the world is “racist” and that she’s part of the problem because of the color of her skin? … Examples such as these are common in K-12 schools today. When educators treat students differently because of their skin color or say children are guilty of oppression because of their race, it violates existing law. It should go without saying, but such dogma is also dispiriting for all children, white or non-white. … State officials, local school board members, and educators have the power—and the right—to prevent this new material from telling students that there is no America, only tribes competing for power. Anyone living in a nation alongside people from different ethnic backgrounds should take seriously the issues of race and equality under the law, but Americans also need to recognize the difference between separate racist acts and a legal system stacked against individuals from certain ethnicities. … Racist acts are deplorable and should be condemned. Yet, declaring Americans to be systemically racist today is a sign of disrespect to those brave souls who marched in civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s, fought to defend our way of life overseas, or are protecting our streets and communities now.”

Why the narrative that critical race theory ‘makes white kids feel guilty’ is a lie | Christie Nold and Ursula Wolfe-Rocca, The Hechinger Report

“To avoid confronting this lie, the narrative of history lessons making white kids feel guilty has taken hold. Many of the recent “anti-CRT” bills ban any curricula that could lead an individual to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual’s race or sex.” A Heritage Foundation commentary endorsing the laws asked, “How would you feel if your child came home from school and said her teacher had told her that everything that happens in the world is ‘racist’ and that she’s part of the problem because of the color of her skin?” The universal language here only thinly veils the assumed white subject for whom this concern is whipped up. …[F]or those of us who are white, we need to know that when we emphatically reject the narrative of the guilty white child by telling our stories, the right’s lie will be obvious: Their concern is not that children will feel bad when learning about the fight for racial justice, but that children will feel good. Young white people with the capacity to act in solidarity with movements for justice are dangerous to white supremacy and its guardians. Those are the real stakes — not white children feeling guilty, but white children armed with truth, history and a righteous desire to work with others to change the world.”

School board general election previews: Florida and California

We’re covering over 500 school board elections in 23 states on Nov. 8. Between now and Election Day, we’ll bring you quick previews of our school board battlegrounds. Last week, we looked at elections in districts in Texas

Today, let’s look at a few races we’re watching in Florida and California. All of the following races are on our list of school board elections where one or more candidates has taken a stance on at least one of the following topics: race in education/critical race theory, responses to the coronavirus pandemic, sex and gender in schools. 


Florida’s school districts held nonpartisan primary elections on Aug. 23. You can read our coverage of those elections here. Primary candidates won outright if they managed to collect a simple majority of the votes. If no candidate won more than 50% of the votes, the two candidates with the most votes advanced to the Nov. 8 general elections. 

In Florida, each county is a school district. 

Florida’s primaries were unique in that both gubernatorial candidates—incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and former Gov. Charlie Crist (D)—endorsed school board candidates. Twenty-five of the DeSantis-endorsed candidates won outright or advanced to the general elections. 

Perhaps the most significant news to come out of the Aug. 23 primaries was the shift in partisan power in a handful of the state’s largest districts. Conservatives obtained a majority in Miami-Dade County, Sarasota County, and Duval County. 

School District of Indian River County District 2: Incumbent Jacqueline Rosario and Cynthia Gibbs are running. In the primary, Rosario won 47% of the vote to Gibbs’ 26% (two other candidates also ran). Both Rosario and Gibbs have worked as teachers. DeSantis endorsed Rosario, while Crist endorsed Gibbs. Rosario has also been endorsed by Moms for Liberty and the 1776 Project PAC. On her campaign website, Gibbs writes, “I support parental rights insofar as no one parent’s rights supersede another’s. Our society is a multi-faceted blend of cultures and lifestyles and our public schools should reflect that.” Rosario’s campaign website says: “My core principles are rooted in limited government, local control, freedom of school choice, fiscal responsible, and equal opportunities for ALL students to receive a high-quality education.”  

As of the 2019-2020 school year, the School District of Indian River County had 17,871 students, 1,046 teachers, and 29 schools. 

Polk County Public Schools: Incumbent Lisa Bone Miller and Jill Sessions are running in the general election for District 7. Miller was first elected in 2017. In the primary, Miller received 42.4% of the vote to Sessions’ 37.5% and Dell Quary’s 20.1%. Although DeSantis did not endorse Sessions, Sessions was one of several Polk County candidates who signed DeSantis’ Education Agenda (DeSantis backed District 3 candidate Rick Nolte, who defeated incumbent Sarah Fortney in the primary). The 1776 Project PAC endorsed Sessions. Miller, a business owner, was first elected to the District 7 seat in 2017. Miller has campaigned on her record, which she says includes an ongoing district efficiency review and promoting family and school collaboration.  

As of the 2019-2020 school year, the Polk County Public Schools had 102,952 students, 5,856 teachers, and 164 schools.

Seminole County Public Schools: Candidates running for two of the three seats up for election this year advanced to the general election. Sean Cooper and Kelley Davis are running for District 2, while Dana Fernandez and Autumn Garick are running for District 5 (the District 1 incumbent, Kristine Kraus, won her election outright). Davis, an attorney and former Seminole County Public Schools high school teacher, has run on boosting teacher pay and recruiting and retaining teachers. Cooper, the CEO of a nonprofit, is campaigning on family empowerment and character development. 

Fernandez and Garick completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey, and we featured their responses in the Sept. 14 edition of this newsletter. You can read Fernandez’s answers here and Gerick’s answers here. Fernandez, a former teacher, has run on safety, parents’ rights, and accountability. Gerick, a school volunteer, has run on preserving and promoting excellence and supporting educators. Fernandez signed Moms for Liberty’s pledge.

As of the 2019-2020 school year, the School District of Indian River County had 68,096 students, 3,571 teachers, and 77 schools. 

Brevard Public Schools: Three of five seats are up for election this year. District 1 candidate Megan Wright and District 5 candidate Katye Campbell won their elections outright in the primaries. Erin Dunne and Gene Trent, two of four candidates running for the District 2 seat, advanced to the general election. The Brevard Democratic Party endorsed Dunne, a teacher, while the Brevard Republican Executive Committee endorsed Trent. According to Florida Today’s Bailey Gallion, the board currently has two Republican, two Democratic and one independent members. Cheryl McDougall, the District 2 incumbent, is a Democrat and did not file for re-election. District 1 incumbent Misty Belford, the independent, was defeated in the primary by Megan Wright, a Republican. If Dunne wins, Republicans will have a 3-2 majority. If Trent wins, Republicans will have a 4-1 majority. 

As of the 2019-2020 school year, Brevard Public Schools had 73,962 students, 4,515 teachers, and 114 schools.


Some districts held nonpartisan primaries on June 7, including the San Diego Unified School District. 

San Diego Unified School Board: Two of five seats are up for election this year. In the race for the District C seat, Cody Petterson and Becca Williams advanced from the June 7 primary. Williams, a Republican, and Petterson, a Democrat, completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. 

Here’s how Petterson, a senior policy advisor for the county, answered the question, “What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?”:

“My two areas of most active public policy engagement have been public education and the environment. For the last half decade, I’ve worked with Educate for the Future to organize and moderate trainings, workshops, and summits on public education policy, including science-based closure and re-opening, social and emotional learning, district budgeting, special education policy and funding, achieving full and fair funding, best-practices to close the achievement gap, post-COVID learning recovery, and countering anti-CRT, anti-mask, anti-vaxx, and anti-mandate discourse.”

Here’s how Williams, who works for a curriculum company and founded three charter schools answered the question, “What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?

“Education, Education Funding, Charters, Vouchers and School Choice.”

Williams said she was motivated to run by how the current board’s progressive policies, including the response to the pandemic: “I do think I have a ton to offer this district in terms of refining thinking on a lot of things, because they’re used to doing things the same way and they have not had anyone who’s seen how things are done in different parts of the country.”

In an interview, Petterson said: “Schools happen not only to be one of the last real, powerful institutions standing that has those sort of New Deal values. But they also happen to be the institution in which the generation that is going to be left to pick up the pieces is in right now.” 

As of the 2019-2020 school year, San Diego Unified School Board had 102,270 students and 176 schools. The district is the second largest by enrollment in the state. 

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 two at-large seats on the Baltimore City Public Schools Board of Education in Maryland. Baltimore City Public Schools is the sixth largest district in the state. As of the 2019-2020 school year, the district had 79,187 students, 4,932 teachers, and 159 schools. 

Four candidates advanced from the July 19, 2022, primary for the two seats. A total of eight candidates ran in the primary. 

April Curley, Ashley Esposito, and Salimah Jasani completed the Candidate Connection survey. Kwame Kenyatta-Bey has not yet filled out the survey. 

Here’s an excerpt from Curley’s answer to 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?

“By bridging the digital divide, I will ensure that no student in Baltimore City is left behind in the fast-paced, ever-changing digital age and ensure every student remains competitive for the high-paying jobs of the future. As a proud Baltimorean who relies on public transportation, I will work to ensure that every student in Baltimore City has a seamless, safe journey to and from school which will decrease tardiness and increase overall attendance.”

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

Here’s an excerpt from Esposito’s answer to 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?

“I am committed to disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline by investing in wrap-around services and supports including trauma informed care, mental health support, mentoring, student leadership, and restorative practices. We all are aware that too many Baltimore City students are challenged by poverty, gun violence, substance use, and/or other traumatic experiences. Trauma is a barrier to students’ participation and success in the classroom. Investments in the support and resources that students, families, and educators identify, need, and want is an investment in our children’s education and disrupts the school-to-prison pipeline.”

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

Here’s an excerpt from Jasani’s answer to 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?

“There should be no such thing as a “bad school” in Baltimore. I will fight to end educational inequity by working to meaningfully include students with disabilities as fully participating members of the school community; promoting School Board outreach in ways that are culturally responsive and meet our community members where they are; and supporting district-wide training and follow up coaching around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.”
Click here to read the rest of Jasani’s responses.