Lead Editorial: Parental control

Parent advocacy for aspects of their children’s education is important, but when it becomes a danger to others, they have to change the way they advocate.

From the October 2021 issue of tjTODAY.

Death threats sent to Loudoun County school board members.

Parents rioting outside a Tennessee school, banging on its closed doors.

In today’s world of controversy and conflict, we sometimes forget that there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. However, current discussions surrounding America’s schools have been increasingly influenced by outraged parents around the nation, polarizing issues from mask and vaccine mandates to the validity of teaching critical race theory. This effect has been even more prevalent in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), where the presence of suggestive material in school libraries and changes to Jefferson’s admissions process have been hot topics of debate at Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) and school board meetings alike.

While input from parents is valuable and impactful, their actions must also be respectful and remain within reasonable bounds. Violent reactions to policy-related concerns such as the death threats recently levied against Loudoun County School Board members are unacceptable. They create an environment that intimidates would-be participants, alienating those prospective members from joining discussions and sharing their perspectives. Additionally, attempts to disparage school board members, teachers, or administrators via social media and news channels have no place in education advocacy. Although parents are important members of the Jefferson community and the policy changes related to it, they are not the main stakeholders. Teachers and students are.

To address this issue, it is important that parents find ways to advocate for their beliefs without crossing these undrawn lines. For example, sending letters or emails to the Jefferson administration or staff allows for opinions to be expressed with minimal disruption to proceedings within the Jefferson community. Speaking at School Board meetings is another way in which parents can voice their opinions to a larger audience. When addressing contentious subjects such as critical race theory or admissions policies, it is important that parents leave room for other parties to comment. Finally, parents must recognize that educators and school members are professionals — addressing education and educational issues is their job, and they have more knowledge of how to further educational systems than most parents. Parents’ individual beliefs or opinions may not always be highlighted in school system actions, but the people behind these motions are usually better informed.

As a school, Jefferson is undergoing a period of massive change. As a community, we have the power to effect that change and what direction the school will take in the future. It is important that Jefferson’s stakeholders make their voices heard, but it is just as important to ensure that those with the ability to create change have the best possible environment to foster that change.