Harry Jackson left the Fairfax County School Board meeting on Thursday night feeling frustrated. The father of a sophomore high school student Thomas Jefferson, he had signed up to speak to the board about sexually explicit material in the school library, including the work he and d other parents say pedophilia normalizes. But the list of speakers ended just before his two minutes at the microphone.
A student who spoke that evening defended the disputed material, saying “there is nothing inappropriate unless you are looking for it.” Mr. Jackson takes it as an admission backwards. âI’m happy to see that we agree that there is pornographic material in the library,â he says.
Thomas Jefferson is not just any public school â US News & World Report the No. 1 class in the country â and Mr. Jackson is not just any parent. Earlier this year, he was elected president of the Parent Teacher Student Association, or PTSA. A graduate of the US Naval Academy and a retired naval intelligence officer, he is one of the thousands of American parents who support their school boards across the country.
Like many of those who gathered outside Thursday night’s meeting, Mr. Jackson wore a T-shirt that read “Parents are not ‘domestic terrorists’. This is a reference to a September 29 letter from the National School Boards Association asking President Biden to investigate threats or disruptions at school board meetings as a possible form of “domestic terrorism.” In response, Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation and US attorneys to review the threats.
It all turned the once boring school board meetings into increasingly boisterous encounters between parents and officials. On so many hot topics of the day – from mandates and mask blockades to critical race theory, transgender politics and racial preferences for admissions – public schools have become the vanguard of today’s progressive agenda. ‘hui. But parents like Mr. Jackson are no longer taking it and showing no signs of giving up.
âDid the NSBA really think about what it was saying? Mr. Jackson asks. âBecause you don’t negotiate with terrorists. You hit them with a drone strike, or send them to Guantanamo.
We are already starting to see some clarification coming. Last week, the Virginia School Boards Association distanced itself from its parent organization, saying it had “not been consulted” on the NSBA letter and that this was “not the first disagreement VSBA has had. had with his national association.
As for Mr. Jackson, until two years ago he saw himself as an ordinary father, umpiring lacrosse and basketball games and serving on the board of directors of an organization promoting programs for talents. What prompted him to take on a more activist role was the school board’s decision last year to replace the highly competitive Thomas Jefferson entrance exam with a new formula designed to increase the number of students. black, Latino and white students at the expense of Asian American students. âIn the name of fairness, they established inequity, and that was clearly aimed at the Asian community,â Jackson said.
So, in August 2020, Mr. Jackson and other like-minded parents formed the Coalition for TJ, and earlier this year he ran for PTSA. He and three other reform contenders won their races, and the Virginia PTA responded with a letter threatening to revoke the charter of the Thomas Jefferson Association. The state group cited “a continued disregard and a series of violations of organizational standards,” but Jackson and other members of the Coalition for TJ see it as another effort to silence their voices.
Mr. Jackson and other protesting parents are often seen as angry white working-class Trump supporters. But this is Fairfax County, where Mr. Biden beat Donald Trump by 42 points. Mr. Jackson is African-American, and of the coalition members elected with him, two are Chinese-Americans and one is Indian-American.
âOur coalition is destroying their narrative,â he said. âMost of our members are Democrats and many are people of color. “
Mr Jackson sees the school board protests as a fallout from the Covid-19 lockdowns. âBecause the kids were at home and learning online, parents got to see what their kids were learning in class and they didn’t like it,â he says. âNow they are talking. “
They also learn that the school system is not interested in what they have to say. Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s Democratic candidate for governor, confirmed his suspicions in a recent debate when he said, âI don’t think parents should tell schools what they should be teaching. It was the ultimate blunder: a politician inadvertently telling the truth.
Mr. Jackson would say it was all education. Besides the particular disagreements he has with the school board, the experience teaches parents like him something much more disturbing. This is because the most important public institution in their children’s lives no longer sees itself as accountable to the public.
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