When School Board Meetings Become Battlegrounds

COVID-19 safety protocols, critical race theory fuel disputes over local control and education policy (EWA Radio Episode 279)

Across the nation, school boards find themselves on  the front lines for debates over COVID-19 mask mandates and teaching about racism. Heated exchanges during public comment periods have expanded to public protests, threats of violence, and a surge in conservative slates of candidates running for school board seats. In Iowa, Des Moines Register reporters Samantha Hernandez and Melody Mercado are closely covering all angles of the story. How politicized were Des Moines area school boards before the pandemic? What happened when a superintendent defied the governor’s order that all schools resume face-to-face instruction? Are school board protests a grassroots effort in local communities or a well-coordinated campaign by outsiders? Also, Hernandez and Mercado offer tips to journalists on how to report responsibly on controversial topics like critical race theory, make the most of social media as a reporting tool, and successfully seize school board meetings to cultivate new sources.

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