Angry parents and activists growing tired of mask mandates, the teaching of critical race theory, and other progressive ideas have flooded school board meetings across the country. They've raised their voices, aired their grievances, and taken educators to task.

The intense scrutiny has led to a wave of resignations of school board members who say they are done being the proverbial punching bag for people upset with the system.

Things got so bad that Kurt Thigpen, a trustee for the Washoe County School Board in Nevada, said he considered suicide amid a relentless barrage of bullying and threats leveled not only by parents but by people who didn't even live in the county or have children attending school.


"At one point, I didn't want to leave my house anymore," he wrote in an opinion piece about his resignation. "I was constantly looking over my shoulder. The anticipation alone of attending another board meeting, being in the same room with folks who likely would be happy if I dropped dead, triggered severe emotional responses for me."

He added that he walked into every board meeting fearing for his safety and not knowing what might happen next.

Thigpen said he had already made himself a target by speaking up for LGBTQ students and added that during his seven months as a trustee, he received "endless emails, texts, phone calls, and social media messages with all sorts of hateful things, well beyond what is to be expected from the role of a public servant."

"It had finally reached a point for me when I started having some serious health problems, both mentally and physically," he said. "It started with suicidal ideations. I didn't want to exist anymore and felt things would be better if I just disappeared."

He said he made the tough decision to resign but holds out hope that one day, "We can all put down our swords and come together as one community regardless of political leanings."

School board members are largely unpaid volunteers. Some are former teachers or parents who want to have a hand in shaping school policy, picking a superintendent, and reviewing the budget. In most places, the number of attendees at a school board meeting could be counted on one hand. That has changed significantly over the past year as parents have spoken up about their dissatisfaction, and special interest groups have latched on to political causes.

For school board members who haven't resigned, parents and political groups have vowed to unseat them in looming elections.

So far, 59 school board recall efforts against 147 board members have been made this year, according to Ballotpedia.

Police have been called to intervene in some places, including Vail, Arizona, where parents protesting a mask mandate pushed their way into a board room earlier this year.

Speakers at a recent meeting there took turns blasting school board members over masks, vaccines, and critical race theory, regardless of the fact that the board had no plans to act on or discuss any of the topics.

But that didn't matter much to the people who attended the event.

"It's my constitutional right to be as mean as I want to you guys," one woman said.


School board member Allison Pratt told the Associated Press that if she weren't already on the school board, she would drop any aspiration to be, given the current charged climate.

"There is starting to be an inherent distrust for school boards, that there's some notion that we are out to indoctrinate children or to undermine parents or things like that, when we are on the same team," she said.

Tensions flared in Mesa County, Colorado, at two meetings this month.

The Aug. 3 meeting was temporarily suspended after audience members yelled at board members for discussing incentives for vaccinated staff.

At the Aug. 17 meeting, the in-person portion of the school board meeting ended after parents demanded School District 51 Superintendent Diana Sirko either resign or be arrested. The police were called, not for an arrest but to escort board members to their vehicles.

"Why am I doing this?" Doug Levinson, a school board member, asked.

In Wisconsin, the vitriol got so intense that three Oconomowoc Area School Board members resigned on Aug. 15, claiming their work environment had become too "toxic."

In a joint letter, Rick Grothaus, Dan Raasch, and Kim Herro said the board had been "dragged into partisan culture wars" and that they saw no option other than to quit "because of the dysfunctional and disrespectful behavior of the remaining board members and the interim president."

Grothaus said he knew being on the board would be tough but that the nastiness was next level and the "pandemic seemed to just bring everything out in a very, very harsh way. It made it impossible to really do any kind of meaningful work."


With more than a year left in her term, Susan Crenshaw resigned from her post on the Craig County, Virginia, school board in August. She said she was blindsided by politics dictating school policy and education.

"There is something that's come into play against government overreach and tyranny and other things that have absolutely nothing to do with the education of children," she said.

Original Location: School board members resign following 'toxic' debates over CRT and mask mandates


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