Parental rights came to the forefront of the public education debate during the pandemic, and they continue to be a hot topic. In its now-infamous 2021 letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) revealed a troubling sentiment toward parents on the part of school boards – or so it seemed.
In truth, that letter was written without the knowledge or consent of member school boards. Many school board directors like me were shocked the NSBA characterized parents as potential “domestic terrorists” for merely exercising their right to address elected representatives.
In a June 2022 press release, Parents Defending Education noted that 26 state school board associations left the NSBA because of the letter, and 30 distanced themselves from it. Nevertheless, the controversy has persisted. Parents and school boards are pitted against each other in the media; the prevailing narrative is that they are adversaries.
It’s true some boards seem to have taken such a position, unfortunately, but that’s not how boards are supposed to operate. School board directors are elected as representatives of the people, whereas district employees are represented by unions. While boards shouldn’t be adversarial to employees – and vice versa – district residents must be able to rely on their board to represent their collective interests. A school system can’t function properly in the absence of that.
Parents should take heart in the fact that so many school board associations rebuked the inflammatory NSBA letter; the Pennridge school board expressed its disappointment in a separate communication, as well. Let that serve as proof many school boards take their role as representatives of the people seriously and stand ready to partner with you and your district to create the best educational system for your children.
Joan Cullen of Hilltown Township is the Pennridge School Board President.