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Johnson County school district meetings grow more ‘angry’ and ‘distrustful’ over mask policies

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A photo of 11 people, male and female, seated at tables draped with grey cloths and arranged in a semicircle, each with a computer or laptop in front of them. Some are wearing protective masks.
Leah Wankum
/
Shawnee Mission Post
School board meetings have changed dramatically in tone during recent months throughout the country.

School board meetings held a reputation for being tame — even boring — affairs focusing on things like student achievement and bond issues. Now, it's a totally different ballgame.

In the last several months, these meetings have often developed into events that include demands and threats from people present at the meeting, even warranting a police presence on occasion.

Kyle Palmer is the editor of the Shawnee Mission Post. He says that while school board meetings in Johnson County, Kansas, have not risen to that level, it's still certainly a quite different atmosphere.

"The tone of these meetings, I think is fair to say... more angry, accusatory at times, distrustful," says Palmer. "A lot of these meetings start with public comment periods and these times are often filled with a parade of people frequently opposed to the district's policies on things like masks."

Aaron Schwartz is a local high school English and rhetoric teacher who bemoans the current trend present at modern school board meetings. He says it causes people to lose sight of the actual debates at hand.

"When I try to teach my students the principles of argument, debate, what is fair," Schwartz elaborates. "To have this be their model in the community is, I think, absolutely embarrassing."

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Elizabeth Ruiz is a freelance producer for KCUR’s Up To Date. Contact her at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz
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