Breaking News
More () »

Sarasota and Manatee County nonprofits call for calm at school board meetings

The 16 nonprofit organizations want the community to take the pledge to stand up for public schools and support local school boards.

SARASOTA, Fla. — Issues like COVID-19 mask mandates and critical race theory brought out some questionable behavior at many school board meetings last summer. What used to largely be civil and orderly meetings degenerated into chaos and disorder. 

Scenes of disruptive parents and groups screaming invectives at school board members or being ushered out of halls popped up across the country. Threats from certain factions forced many school board members to quit while other parents stayed away. Now a coalition of organizations in Sarasota and Manatee counties has come together to take a stand. They want to combat that kind of hostility.

"We were appalled at the hate and vitriol that we were seeing and witnessing at these meetings. The people that were getting up to speak were so prejudiced and so vile and we just knew that we had to do something about it," said Angela Wynn with Support Our Schools.

"They were attacking public schools, they were attacking education, they were wanting to control what children are learning," Wynn said.

The newly formed coalition kicked off a campaign at a virtual press conference on Tuesday.

It is made up of 16 nonprofit organizations that want to take the pledge to stand up for public schools. Their aim is to bring in more voices to school board meetings and bring communities together to support public schools. They also want to address the divisions and vitriol that has recently dominated those meetings.

"We want to still be loud with our voices, but in a kind way in a way that shines in a way that brings love and community and people together," Wynn said.

Two separate but parallel campaigns were launched Tuesday, one in Sarasota County and the other in Manatee County. Campaign leaders are calling on supporters of public education to unite and to Take the Pledge to:

  • Stand up for high-quality equitable and inclusive education for all students.
  • Stand up for truth and evidenced-based curriculum that accurately portrays history and science
  • Stand up to keep school boards nonpartisan
  • Stand up for well-funded public schools

The following organizations and groups have joined the Stand Up for Public Schools campaign:

  • Protect Our Public Schools (POPS) Manasota
  • Support Our Schools (SOS)
  • Sarasota County NAACP
  • Manasota ASALH (Association for the Study of African American Life and History)
  • Brady Sarasota
  • ALSO Youth
  • Modern Marimba
  • Suncoast Women of Action
  • Newtown Nation
  • The Nation Group
  • Center for Religious Tolerance
  • Suncoast NEA—Retired
  • Social Justice Committee of the UU Church of Sarasota
  • Lean on Me
  • Peace Education and Action Center
  • Manatee Indivisible

"We are sick and tired of the hatred and vitriol we face at school board meetings and on social media. We want to tackle the real issues facing education in our communities and to do that we have to change the narrative away from that of vitriol to that of constructive input from the community," said Juliette Scholles, a Sarasota parent and founder of Support Our Schools.

The coalition said it was concerned about what example those meetings had set for children and the community as a whole.

"I want my daughter to have a high-quality education in a diverse, safe and caring environment," she added.

Organizers say the only way to prevent such scenes from happening again is to get involved.

"Show up show your support you don't have to talk just be there to show the school board and show people at home that we are the majority that it's not them," said Wynn.

The Stand Up for Public Schools coalition will encourage its members to attend and participate in local school board meetings. It has also set up an online site where area residents can become active in this coalition and/or take the pledge to support public schools.

To take the pledge and support the vision of the coalition, visit the organization's website, here.

Before You Leave, Check This Out