The Parental Takeover: Do parents have too much of a say?

Kelli Coleman, Editor in Chief

Following the School Board meeting on Monday, Jan. 24, where parents flooded the chambers demanding a revote on the parent opt-out regarding mask, a question has been raised which is, why do parents have all the control when it comes to making the decision in the schools? 

“It’s like our opinions aren’t valid because of our age, “ said Alex Njie (‘22). 

Traditionally, the role of parents within the classroom has always been highly regarded. They are able to volunteer at school events, in fact, many parents raise money as boosters to help out school organize clubs and sports teams. but under a new governor, the role/voice of parents in the classroom has expanded from helping around the school to dictating major decisions. 

“It’s about empowering parents” said Governor Glen Youngkin in his press release. 

The idea of “empowering parents”, has left students feeling like they are being pushed aside when it comes to the school board and their decisions whether it be on wearing a mask or reading certain books. 

“ They [Stafford County School Board] have to deal with the entire Stafford county, it’s not the best,” said Kaitlyn Halepaska (‘25). 

Within Stafford County, there have been extensive discussions about a plethora of issues that have been brought to the forefront by the parents of the county. Masks seem to be the latest and most debated topic, mirroring the current state of the nation. 

“No mask mandates, my children will not come to school on Monday with a mask on…and I will bring every single gun loaded and ready,” said Amelia King, a mother in Luray County, who was arrested after making this statement when giving her opinion about masks at a School Board meeting. 

Locally, a small band of parents held a protest at Margaret Brett elementary school, where they called for the unmasking of children at the school. This mini protest came after the School Boards decision to keep masks. 

“I felt as a parent, that it was important to show up and stand up and that my child will know all the things that I had been telling her that I believe in…those are my rights, this is my child, they don’t belong to the school, they don’t belong to the state of Virginia” explained one of the mothers who demonstrated in the anti-masking protest.  

The parents’ opinions on masks seem to be much more animated compared to the students that are actually attending the schools. 

“ I think that they [mask] are helping us, and keeping us safe, but if you get vaccinated they [mask] should be optional because you are protecting yourself,” said Kendyll English (‘22). 

Educators seem to be able to give their two cents when it comes to the mask issue as the Stafford Education Association polled 1700 teachers and administrators, in which 72% of them voted in favor of keeping the mask policy in place. 

Masks are not the only hot topic being discussed among parents and the school board. Late last year, the topic of Critical Race Theory (CRT) was on the chopping block. 

“ We don’t teach it, we never have. Every single thing we teach is publically available and developed by the Virginia Department of Education” said Stanley Jones, interim superintendent.

The school board came to the conclusion that CRT was never and will never be taught within Stafford County Public schools, but this decision was made with little to no student involvement. 

“All representation matters” explained Alex Nije (‘22). 

Representation does matter, and with the banning of CRT, representation has come to a halt. In November, Spotsylvania County School Board was threatened with the “burning of the books ‘. In which the parents called for books with “explicit” content to be banned. 

“It’s hard to get a straight answer for anybody, who chooses these books? “ questioned a Spotsylvania County mother at a school board meeting. 

Although issues like a mask or no mask, books or no books, and CRT or no CRT are still very much prevalent issues, the new superintendent, Thomas W. Taylor,  has attempted to make strides in getting students involved with the decision-making process. 

We want to hear from you regarding next year’s bell schedule and length of the school day…transparency is very important to me, and I want to share with you the feedback we receive from the community so that you understand my rationale behind many future recommendations,” wrote Dr. Taylor in a mass email on Friday, Jan. 28. 

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 8th and Dr. Taylor will present the data found in the survey.