Board of Education Elections Matter

This evening, there is a “back to school” fundraiser for the West Hartford, CT Democratic Board of Education candidates.

When is the last time you helped with a Board of Education campaign, or attended a Board of Education meeting in your area? Unless you are very involved politically, or live in an area where the Board of Education is arguing whether science can be taught in school, the odds are, you haven’t paid a lot of attention to what is going on in your Board of Education.

Yet Board of Education Elections can matter a lot. On the simplest level it is a great way for people to get involved with their communities and with politics. People often start off on Boards of Education before moving on to higher offices.

With Liberty and Justice for All

Tuesday, I was at the National Conference of State Legislatures listening to panelists talk about education and results based accountability. I’ve wondered about the unintended results in education. I touched on this briefly in a post about the Freedom of Information complaint filed against the Lewis S. Mills School in Burlington, CT.

Andy Thibault has been following this closely at Cool Justice and pointed me to Chris Powell’s wonderful column Inadvertently, school teaches about liberty.

Doninger and her friends also were forbidden to wear to school T-shirts with inscriptions supporting freedom of speech.

It all will be a nice counterpoint to the next recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag at Mills High School, what with its proclamation of "liberty and justice for all."

Powell’s article captures very nicely the truly teachable moment taking place at Lewis S. Mills School. Yet for teachable moments to take place, people must know about them and Thibault and Doninger are providing an important service in bringing attention to this teachable moment. I hope it spreads.

Being the instigator that I am, I hope the students and teachers at Lewis S. Mills school all return to school wearing T-shirts that simply say “Liberty and Justice for All”. Will the school, in the middle of this lawsuit send students home for wearing a quote from the Pledge of Allegiance? How will the administration treat teachers that try to use a teachable moment to encourage students to think seriously about what the Pledge of Allegiance means?

Beyond that, I do hope that the administration comes to its senses soon and settles out of court. Wise educators know not only when to take advantage of a teachable moment, but they also know when it is time to move on with the lesson plan. I hope such a settlement includes a way to bring closure to the teachable moment.

To me, the best closure would include a school assembly with Thibault, Powell and others on a panel talking about the importance of vigilantly protecting liberty and justice for all, followed by the musical event that precipitated the whole morass. I also hope college admission officers around the country take note and fight hard to recruit Avery Doninger.

I remain the optimist. I do believe in liberty and justice and all, and I salute Doninger, Thibault, Powell and everyone who is standing up it.

What are we teaching our children?

As United States citizens, we hold dear the right to vote and the promise of free and open elections. If we do not hold ourselves to these standards, and the standards of freedom of information, the U.S. Constitution and the Connecticut Constitution, what are we teaching our children?

Last night during his keynote speech at YearlyKos, Gov. Dean spoke about the importance of reaching out to the youth. As people get into the habit of voting, they stay in the habit. This afternoon, I listened to a panel about problems with voting suppression. So, when I found the above quote, it caught my attention.

However, the quote wasn’t from an article about voting machines or requirements for photo ids. It was from a Freedom of Information (FOI) complaint filed in Burlington, CT.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Avery Doninger. She was class secretary at Lewis S. Mills High School, but was not allowed to run for reelection because she had referred to the school superintendent as a “douchbag” in a blog post. Her mother is now suing the school.

The Cool Justice Report quotes a student at the school as saying,

"On the day of elections everyone (I mean everyone) wrote in the girls name next to 'Secretary' and circled it. At the end of the day when they had to tell us who won they said that the elections were so close that they were going to give kids who weren't there a chance to vote the next day. The girl who won only had like 7 votes because everyone voted for the girl who wasn't running."

Based on this, he is trying to get a copy of the ballots and there is a lot of legal wrangling back and forth. This was the context for the quote above.

Well, Andy is asking the right question. What are we teaching our children? Perhaps the folks at Lewis S. Mills High School are teaching the right message, after all, in a convoluted manner. They are teaching our children the importance of constant vigilance in defending things that keeps our country strong, like freedom of speech and free and open elections.

I wish all of the students luck in this most important lesson.

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