If you get a couple minutes, be sure to check out a fine op-ed that was posted this morning by Capitol Broadcasting Company opinion editor Seth Effron at WRAL.com. In “Confronting fear of violence at public school polling places,” Effron shares some important insights on a pair of current and intersecting front burner issues: school safety and the state of our democracy.
The essay was prompted by recent requests in Wake County (and elsewhere) to close schools — which are frequently used as polling places — on the days of elections. In a time in which millions of children are already traumatized and endangered by the nation’s metastasizing gun violence crisis and various extremists are threatening violence toward election officials, many parents and teachers are expressing understandable concerns about mixing these two volatile items.
“While there are many risks that we can’t predict, we do have the ability to mitigate this one,” Wake County parent Kirstin Morrison told School Board members earlier this month. “We can align a teacher workday with Election Day so that our students can stay out of the buildings and safe.”
The recent massacre of elementary school students and teachers in Uvalde, Texas, remains much on parents’ minds. “Today’s world is unpredictable and we have no ability to be immune to such a tragedy unfolding in our own community,” Morrison said.
It is an unfortunate reality today – and a most reasonable response. Closing schools for the safety and convenience of students, school workers and voters – is an appropriate step.
But as Effron also notes, it’s also important not to let such a pro-safety step end up removing elections and democracy from the consciousness of schoolkids. Here’s his on-the-mark conclusion:
While our state leaders have been exploring ways to impose all kinds of dictates on what students can, or cannot, be exposed to in the classroom they might also look for opportunities to make sure students see voting as something to be celebrated and not fretted over.
We live in a state and nation that uplifts democracy and true representative government. We also understand REAL POWER still rests with citizens who exercise their clout at the ballot box.
How about making sure we’re teaching students that power comes only through the ballot, not bullying. Participation, not provocation and intimidation, are what makes our nation great.
Amen to that.
Click here to read the entire essay.