School board elections have gone from non-partisan to heated debates across the country as partisan Congress reaches the smallest communities. In some of the first elections since former President Donald Trump’s defeat, local races have energized the conservative movement. In Douglas County, Colorado, where Trump defeated President Joe Biden by more than 7 points, this effort could end with a conservative victory that would have a long-lasting effect on the community. Recent debates over Critical Race Theory, masking policies, and other initiatives have turned local elections for Douglas County School Board into a battle between right and left. Thanks to the elections, which end soon, Douglas County School board meetings are currently heated debates where parents, students and other attendees spend hours arguing. Douglas County School Board sees over a district that is home to 64,000 students. There are currently seven candidates for the Douglas County School Board, two of which are incumbents.
Who is Running for Douglas County School Board?
Mike Peterson, Becky Myers, Kaylee Winegar and Christy Williams have positioned themselves as the conservative candidates for Douglas County School Board. On the other ticket, which is Left leaning, is Krista Holtzmann, Kevin Leung, Juli Watkins and Ruby Martinez. Two members of the Left’s ticket are incumbents, which gives them a leg up. However, the conservative ticket is backed by the local and state GOP and groups like the 1776 Project PAC, which oppose anti-racist education. They’ve also been boosted by wealthy donors, bringing in $300,000. Much of it has come from people like Eric Garrett, a local real estate executive, Mike Slattery, another local businessman, and R. Stanton Dodge, the chief legal counsel for DraftKings, a sports-betting and fantasy site. Richard Martyr, the president-elect of the Colorado Association of School Boards,said a fundraising haul of that size is “completely atypical” for a school board race.
What Happened at the Recent School Board Meeting?
Locals say this election is all-together taking on a “different flavor.” Tensions grew during a Douglas County School Board meeting after a federal judge blocked an order from the county’s board of health allowing people to opt-out of mandatory masking in school. Attendees called the board of health members “sociopaths and tyrants,” adding if they “couldn’t handle such criticism they should resign immediately.” At the most recent School Board meeting, arguments broke out in the audience. The current Douglas County School Board president, David Ray, had to ask the audience not to clap or cheer several times because, as he said, that “makes it an unsafe environment for someone who has a different perspective.” This did not seem to deter meeting attendees who continued to cheer and support their respective side. People in the audience wore shirts made for their individual causes. One woman’s shirt said “a masked child is an abused child” and had a mask inside a red circle with a line through it. Another woman wore a shirt that said “vaccinated but still wearing my mask.” One of the biggest debates in that meeting was over Critical Race Theory. One female student said “make no mistake, critical race theory… sorry, equity… is one of the most racist things I have ever heard.” Later, a male student argued for the importance of equity initiatives for students who were not in the straight, white majority. Discussions over race in schools have been frequent in Douglas County school board meetings all year, with diversity and inclusion training teaching critical race theory.
Douglas County School Board Debates Critical Race Theory
In an April Zoom workshop, Dante and Christina James, spoke about institutional racism and urged teachers to re-examine the narratives traditionally taught in American grade schools. “Was manifest destiny a great way to conquer the west?” Dante James asked. “Or was it genocide?” Some parents were outraged and the conservative school board slate seized on the training as an example of what they describe as “wokeness gone too far.” Bret Miles, executive director of the Colorado Association of School Executives, defended the program and said it has nothing to do with critical race theory. Their purpose is to tailor educational resources to students’ unique circumstances and ensure equal access in the classroom, he said. “The equity policy has nothing to do with critical race theory. They’re, they’re two completely different things,” said Watkins, one of the school board candidates running against the conservative slate. “Teaching history as it happens, even in all of its ugliness, is critical to have people be educated. I think it’s a natural human inclination to try to, you know, brush over things that are unflattering,” she added. “But I think we’re, we’re at that point where it’s time to at least acknowledge some of the ugly things that have happened.”
Deborah Flora is a conservative radio host who runs the group Parents United America and recently launched a Senate bid challenging Michael Bennet, said “We want slavery to be taught, we want children to learn about what has happened, and Jim Crow laws and why America went to war with itself to end slavery and all of that,” she said. “This is not what we’re talking about when you are telling a child that because of an immutable characteristic, they should be ashamed of that immutable characteristic and that they are oppressors.” Do you think School Board elections should stay non-partisan? What would a conservative School Board mean for Douglas County Schools and other counties to follow? Do you believe schools should teach Critical Race Theory or just American history?
Written by: Erinn Malloy