‘I Couldn’t Just Sit on the Sidelines Anymore’: North Carolina Parents Run for Local School Boards

April 29, 2022 in News by RBN Staff

source:  theepochtimes


By Matt McGregor
April 28, 2022 Updated: April 29, 2022

NORTH CAROLINA—Like many parents who chose to run for their district school boards this year, Crissy Pratt had never been involved in local politics.

That changed during the COVID-19 lockdowns when Pratt began watching the live-streamed Guilford County Board of Education meetings in North Carolina to keep up with the ever-changing COVID restrictions.

What she saw left her furious.

“By the end of most meetings I was screaming at the television,” Pratt told The Epoch Times. “None of the board members were talking about what was best for kids, or how to better educate them and improve their test scores.”

Pratt, with 10 years of experience in teaching and 12 years in online education, decided to bring to the table a level of insight about children’s needs that she said the current board lacks.

Transparency is also a shortcoming of the board, which is an issue many parents are most upset about, she said.

Like many other parents, Pratt found that deeper dives into the inner workings of the system unearthed disturbing trends within the curricula.

Critical race theory (CRT), a Marxist philosophy that claims society can only be explained by the theory of class struggle between oppressors and the oppressed (specifically labeling white people as the oppressors and all other races as the oppressed), was just the beginning of what Pratt said she saw as a method of indoctrinating children while sacrificing basic learning skills such as math, science, and English.

As a parent, she was able to examine her son’s homework and found that large chapters of history were being omitted in favor of others.

Her son was taking honors-level classes for both U.S. history and world history and hadn’t learned about the American Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, or the Holocaust, Pratt said.

“The entirety of his U.S. history was civil rights cases, which of course is important, but they do not make up all of U.S. history by any stretch of the imagination,” Pratt said.

While the board has denied teaching CRT, Pratt said she’s aware of several concepts being taught, such as linking gun violence to “white privilege,” the tenet of the oppressor versus the oppressed, and the idea that a child can choose his or her own gender.

“As a former teacher, I am fully on the side of the teachers, but there are teachers literally telling their students not to tell their parents what they are teaching,” Pratt said. “Although I’m an advocate for teachers, if you are teaching something that you are telling your child not to repeat to parents, then maybe you should rethink what you’re saying in the classroom.”

All components of the indoctrination, combined with low test scores and a lack of focus on what’s best for children, motivated Pratt to run, she said.

“Like I said, I’m not a politician. This is messy and ugly and it’s getting uglier,” she said. “But I also feel that as a parent and educator, I just couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore. I had to do something about it.”

Epoch Times Photo
Crissy Pratt, candidate for the Guilford County Board of Education in N.C., in 2021. (Courtesy of Crissy Pratt)

Take Back Our Schools

Pratt is among five candidates endorsed by the Take Back Our Schools initiative in Guilford County, which began with Greensboro resident Stephanie Mitchell adopting and localizing a larger national movement to investigate harmful school policies.

Mitchell started the organization in 2019. The movement was inspired by the book “Why Meadow Died” by Andrew Pollack, a Florida father who investigated the 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead, including his daughter, Meadow Pollack.

While the media reacted to the shooting by focusing on gun control policies, Pollack examined what he postulated were the left-leaning, weak-discipline policies that allowed the shooter to evade a parade of red flags.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mitchell’s organization shifted its focus to address the onslaught of restrictive COVID-19 policies that she said the Guilford County school board enacted without any oversight.

For Mitchell, there was a problem long before COVID, but it was COVID that gave other parents the opportunity to finally see it.

“This is not new,” Mitchell told The Epoch Times.

In some ways, she said, the pandemic was a gift because remote learning forced more parents to witness what their children were being taught, including those who had previously written off other parents’ concerns about CRT as an overreaction.

“That’s when the light bulb went off for people, and it was no longer a conspiracy theory spewed by crazy white moms,” Mitchell said. “This is real.”

Mitchell said that private, for-profit companies—backed by philanthropic organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation—are providing grants to schools with the intent of controlling the curriculum and initiating data mining, social emotional learning (SEL), and political agendas.

“Once schools get that money, they have to do what they’re told,” Mitchell said.

On the Take Back Our Schools website, Mitchell details the Broad Foundation’s relationship with the public school system in the Charlotte–Mecklenburg and Guilford County school districts through the foundation’s professional development training company, Broad Academy.

By certifying school officials such as superintendents, those superintendents are then propagandized into becoming marketing representatives for social justice propaganda that is then distributed to the students through the curriculum, a process that exists without any transparency, Mitchell said.

“The biggest thing that Take Back has been promoting is parental rights and transparency,” Mitchell said. “We do not co-parent with the government, and there’s been no transparency on money being spent.”

In addition to Pratt, Take Back Our Schools endorsed four other candidates—incumbent Linda Welborn and challengers Demetria Carter, Tim Andrew, and Robert Millican—who are running on these issues, as well as to support teachers and students, Mitchell said.

“These people are their own candidates, and we at Take Back are supporting and promoting them because we know they can fix our schools,” Mitchell said.

‘We’re Paying Attention Now’

Michelle Antoine, a mother of eight with a background in education, has stepped up to run for a seat on the Johnston County School Board, where proficiency in academics has been traded for social justice ideologies, she told The Epoch Times.

Like many parents turned investigative journalists, Antoine began researching and laying out her findings in a series of articles published in The Johnston County Report and on her Facebook page, Michelle Antoine – JoCo Advocate for Students, Teachers & Schools.

“My objective has been to make parents aware of what is going on,” Antoine said.

In an article titled “Activists in Our Schools: Big Data,” Antoine delved into the origin, financing, and itinerary of how SEL made its way throughout the school system without oversight or parental input.

Among the materials she discovered were training modules for local teachers using “wildly progressive videos, far-leftist resources, and anecdotal stories” that labeled white people in Johnston County as white supremacists with white privilege.

“I put all of this on blast on social media because I was not getting anywhere with the school board, and they shut down the whole thing,” she said.

After Antoine published her findings, she said the school terminated its contract with the former district’s chief of equity, information, and student services in 2021, though the school didn’t give an official statement on its reason for termination.

Antoine is running for the school board to bring transparency back to the taxpayers, authority back to the parents, and achievement in proficiency back to the students to restore the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, she said.

“We haven’t been paying attention, but I think we finally just got woken up,” Antoine said. “We’re paying attention now.”

Epoch Times Photo
Michelle Antoine, candidate for Johnston County School Board in N.C., at her home in 2021. (Courtesy of Michelle Antoine)

‘Ours is a Last-Ditch Effort to Save Our Schools’

Jessica Cook of Weddington, North Carolina, decided to run for a seat on the Union County Board of Education after seeing a lack of parental involvement within her two daughters’ public school, but she was also fighting to end overreaching mask and quarantine mandates.

“As I worked on that, I would start to discover many other things in the school system,” Cook, who is also a member of the Union County division of the parental rights organization Moms for Liberty, told The Epoch Times.

CRT curricula and age-inappropriate books were surfacing in her children’s school library system, just as they were in schools across the country, she said.

“For anyone paying attention, you know this is a nationwide problem,” Cook said.

In addition to the COVID policies and the CRT curricula, Cook and her parental rights coalition discovered a series of surveys that were being conducted on children that asked them intrusive questions based on the premise of SEL’s stated purpose of “improving education,” though many argue the questions stray far from instructional intent.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, according to investigative journalist Sloan Rachmuth with Education First Alliance, had entered into a contract with Panorama Education beginning in 2014, and since then, SEL has taken on a life of its own and only increased since 2020.

Panorama Education’s founder, Xan Tanner, is the son-in-law of U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who sought to investigate parents who attended school board meetings to ask questions as “domestic terrorists” in 2021, at the request of the National School Boards Association.

This led to numerous state school boards leaving the association and 14 Republican attorneys general suing the Biden administration for not responding to a Freedom of Information request related to the Department of Justice’s potential surveillance of parents.

“These social emotional learning programs have a very lucrative price tag,” Cook said. “Our school paid around $78,000 to let Panorama survey our kids.”

Each curriculum Cook pored over revealed ulterior motives, Cook said.

“It became a daily task of researching, sending emails, writing speeches, organizing rallies outside our schools, and lobbying the school board and county commissioners,” she said.

Pulling her two daughters out of school wasn’t an option, as they enjoyed the community their school provided, Cook said, so she has vowed to “stay the course” by advocating for them.

Epoch Times Photo
Jessica Cook, candidate for a seat on the Union County Board of Education in N.C., in 2021. (Courtesy of Jessica Cook)

Cook drafted a bill of rights that advocates for transparency and parental involvement in schools, which she spoke about during the public comment period of a board meeting in December 2021.

Similarly, the John Locke Foundation—a nonprofit research institute in Raleigh, North Carolina, that examines issues of freedom, personal responsibility, and limited constitutional government—wrote a contract between parents and school boards to sway lawmakers who could guarantee parental collaboration with school boards through legislation.

Parental bills of rights have emerged in many other states as well, as contentious school board meetings have led parents to believe their voices were being silenced.

“If we don’t step in now, it may be too far gone, because as I’ve continued to research, I’ve found that this movement is not something new,” Cook said. “We are just now aware, and I think ours is a last-ditch effort to save our schools. If we don’t hold the line, then it will never go back to the way it was.”