BOE meetings turned to chaos

Ben Brennan, News Editor

The Oct. 18 D99 board of education meeting was unremarkable at first. Discussion centered around a proposal to implement a hybrid block schedule. Then, after about an hour, the board opened the meeting to public comment.

Over a dozen members of local conservative group WakeUp D99 were in the audience, dressed in red and often carrying typed speeches. They unloaded countless politically-charged complaints against the board, claiming that the “D99 board follows all mask mandates and lockdown orders, teaching young people to obey government without question,” and “this district is helping big pharma market an experimental vaccine to children.”

A smaller, blue-clad group of spectators had come to oppose them. One even brought a large hand-drawn diagram to the podium, using it to deliver a rebuttal to a “five-part blog post” on the WakeUp D99 website.

Bizarre political grievances and online disputes came to life in an otherwise mundane board meeting. These scenes aren’t unique to our district; nationwide, conservatives have organized demonstrations at school boards, taking advantage of public comment segments to rail against critical race theory, “inappropriate” sex education, and COVID-related health guidelines.

Their methods range from public protest to legal action; WakeUp D99 members have joined in a lawsuit filing a temporary restraining order to prevent districts from requiring masks, requesting proof of vaccination, and prohibiting potentially COVID-infected students from entering school.

If the order is upheld in court, districts are stripped of the capabilities needed to keep schools both open and safe. This would force the Illinois State Board of Education to weigh their options. Would schools go fully remote? Return to hybrid? Do they remain open without requiring masks, risking a spike in COVID infections? Regardless of the exact outcome, student life would be disrupted, much like it was at the start of the pandemic.

WakeUpD99 is out of touch with not just reality, but young people as well. Many members of the group don’t even have kids who attend a D99 school. These people are perfectly willing to sacrifice student needs at the altar of their political objectives. Be wary of them—they do not have our interests at heart.