The time of electing local school boards should come to an end. According to the National School Boards Association, “the local school board is a critical public link to public schools. Whether elected or appointed, school board members serve their communities in several important ways. First and foremost, school boards look out for students. Education is not a line item on the school board's agenda—it is the only item.”
“School board members are locally elected public officials entrusted with governing a community's public schools. The role of the school board is to ensure that school districts are responsive to the values, beliefs and priorities of their communities.”
I highlight in bold print and underlined the most important role of local school boards -to ensure that school districts are responsive to the values, beliefs and priorities of their communities.
In other words, the decisions school board members make should be in line with the will of the people, not administrators, not politicians, but the people.
The reason why this role was established when school boards were created, was to ensure that the people and not government would determine the direction each school district would take with regard to educating their children.
Unfortunately, citizens and parents of children attending many public schools across the nation have surrendered their rights and power to school boards that are no longer “responsive to the values, beliefs and priorities of their communities.” Instead, many school boards are responsive only to the values, beliefs, and priorities of individuals establishing government policies, political entities, and special interest groups.
For example, many parents of school children throughout the United States have expressed on news media outlets, at local school board meetings, and other means of communication, their desire to see much more emphasis on curriculum that is focused on American history, government, and the values our nation was founded upon. The response many of these parents receive from elected school board members is that curriculum is created by the state (government) and administrators, not the parents.
Unfortunately, educators and parents bear the brunt of criticism for low rankings in many school districts. But, dig a little deeper and you will find that government regulations and politicized school boards are the real reason why many school districts are not performing better than they should.
As columnist Shaun Kenny of the Conservative Post puts it, “No one dares mention the pawns in the game. Namely our students, who are then handicapped for life by one of the worst performing education systems in the industrialized world.”
Of all the issues that have been surrounding the arguments as to whether elected school boards have outlived their usefulness, is the issue of school security in the aftermath of school shootings, especially the tragic event that took place in Florida in February of 2018.
The tragedy in Florida sparked a national debate about school security. This debate revealed that there is much disagreement across the nation as to how school districts should better secure their schools. On one side of the debate citizens are advocating for the installation of metal detectors and trained armed security personnel as a layer of protection. On the other side of the debate citizens are advocating for tougher and stricter gun control laws.
These arguments have placed local school boards directly in the crosshairs of the question surrounding their responsibility regarding school security.
While many school boards across the nation did respond to the values, beliefs and priorities of their communities by taking swift and effective action to strengthen security at their schools, there were unfortunately, many school boards that demonstrated a lack of will or strength to meet this challenge and passed the decision making to school administrators because, as one school official expressed to the media, “this is a political hot potato no one wants to touch.”
In my view, as well as the view of law enforcement practitioners with a wealth of knowledge and experience with issues such as this, the first action every school district in America should have taken is to place well trained armed security personnel in their schools, until at least school security assessments could be conducted and finalized to determine what each school district’s vulnerabilities are, and what best practices would be used for their particular school security needs.
The argument that “we must conduct an assessment first” is nothing more than a political escape from a very critical issue. The assessment one only need to make is to see the violent incidents that have taken place in our schools across the nation and assess the values, beliefs and priorities of the parents who send their children to school. Immediate protective and proactive measures always come before long drawn out assessments.
As a result of the national debate about this issue, many parents have become frustrated, feel betrayed by their elected school board members, and powerless to do anything to change the minds of elected school board members who refuse to be responsive to the values, beliefs and priorities of their communities.