Safe, equitable schools are every teacher’s goal. But not all community members agree on what that means or whether it even matters.
At a packed meeting yesterday, the Greenwich Board of Education experienced firsthand the vocal attacks on school curriculum and COVID safety protocols that the district’s teachers have been facing at the hands of a largely anonymous group calling itself the “Greenwich Patriots.”
Teachers refused to remain silent and came out in large numbers to show their solidarity and urge attacks against education professionals to stop. To show their support for teachers, nearly 100 CEA leaders and staff joined Greenwich Education Association (GEA) leaders and members at the October 21 Board of Education meeting.
Dressed in #RedForEd, Greenwich teachers, local union leaders, and CEA staff and governance arrived en masse at the BOE meeting after marching nearly a mile carrying signs that read “Support Greenwich Teachers,” “Stop Attacking Teachers,” “Stop Harassing Teachers,” and “We Support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” Signs also marked the perimeter of the grounds and entrance to the building.
“We will not be silent,” said GEA President Lillian Perone. “These attacks have taken an ugly and personal turn, with ‘Patriots’ targeting some of our distinguished and highly respected teachers, threatening their employment, and making defamatory statements against them. We cannot allow our friends and colleagues to be harassed, bullied, and threatened. We are all entitled to a safe workplace, free from intimidation, and our students deserve welcoming classrooms. The Greenwich Board of Education needs to take a firm stand against threating and harassing behavior against educators, and our elected leaders must pledge to support and expand education equity programs intended to make schools diverse, inclusive, and effective for all students.”
Watch Perone’s remarks to the Greenwich Board of Education.
On the attack
Frequently speaking with their masks pulled down, self-identified “Patriots”—a handful of angry parents and community members—voiced their opposition to social and emotional learning, put “pandemic” in air quotes, and called mask mandates in schools “a crime against humanity” based on “delusional science.” Many of these community members have focused the worst of their attacks on a Black teacher who is highly regarded by her colleagues and most parents.
The Greenwich group has been operating mostly on social media but has become more visible and more strident in its assertions that school curriculum and the educators who teach it are “racist.”
While some BOE members reminded speakers to mask up and follow other safety guidelines and meeting etiquette, others applauded not only their defiance but also announcements that “Patriots” plan to run for BOE seats November 2.
Your vote is your voice
With attacks on education mounting in Greenwich, Guilford, and other parts of the state, CEA President Kate Dias has emphasized that classrooms must remain places where students “learn about their world with an honest, truthful, age-accessible, and fact-based curriculum—even if some of those lessons are difficult and uncomfortable.”
She added, “We must oppose special interest groups who attack our dedicated educators for doing their job, for telling the truth, and for shedding light on problems we face, including inequality and inequity. Regardless of what we look like, where we live, or what’s in our wallets, we want our public schools and educators to inspire imagination, cultivate critical thinking, and ensure our students can live fulfilling lives. Reality is complicated and sometimes difficult, but our dedicated public school educators are professionals who are trained to guide students through their lessons in an age-accessible setting.”
Battles for board of education seats are heating up in districts all over Connecticut. Be sure to vote November 2 to ensure your board of education, town council, and other groups with local decision-making power comprise members who care about all students, their teachers, and quality public education.
Read more about CEA members who are running for boards of education and town councils around Connecticut.