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Calif. school board fights: An unexpected lesson on grace

school board vaccine parents
Anti-vaccine protesters stage a protest outside of the San Diego Unified School District office to protest a forced vaccination mandate for students on September 28, 2021 in San Diego, California. The School District was holding a virtual hearing on whether to enact a mandate for students to receive at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. |

Parents are arrested and dragged out of meetings, kids are suspended for wearing the wrong "type" of masks, and angry taxpayers demand that critical race theory (CRT) be banned from the school curriculum. Whether in Southern California or Northern Virginia, school board meetings can be hostile and enormously divisive. Some even predict school board elections will significantly affect the overall 2022 midterms election.  

In my area, the Placentia Yorba Linda School District, the president of the board unilaterally stopped two of the recent meetings after only a few minutes because some people in the audience were not "properly" wearing masks. This created a massive uproar amongst the parents and two opposing school board members, who had no idea that action would be taken. Lawyers have served them with "cease and desist" letters, accusing the board of violating numerous state education laws and threatening criminal prosecution. By the time the next meeting was held, this time outside to avoid the masking issue, emotions had run so high I was worried a fight would break out.

As I watched what is now school board defenders vs. detractors speak during public comments, I was struck by how acrimonious the conversation had become. Angry and frustrated parents hurled insults and accusations at the board, who seemed unphased by it, making the audience more furious. One mother was in tears that her daughter passed out wearing a mask during physical education. She was refused a medical exemption even though she had a letter from her doctor that she was allergic to the mask. A similar report of children with disabilities being penalized and harassed for not masking is reported in another Southern California area, Simi Valley Unified School District. A child with ADHD who could not wear the mask was sent outside to sit by himself then was marked truant for missing class. Repeated requests for a medical exemption were denied, and the family claims the child was bullied, harassed, and ridiculed.

On the opposing side, parents insist on keeping the mask requirements, which they see as a way of protecting their children. Several of them also saw the resistance to CRT as racially motivated and accused the detractors of wanting to maintain "white privilege" over the minority children. A couple of students claimed they were bullied over their race and saw CRT as a way of alleviating it. In addition to all the controversy over masking and CRT, community members were outraged when they heard the school board might be keeping the mask requirement only to maintain the supplemental federal funding pouring into schools under emergency appropriations. The PYLUSD superintendent adamantly denied the accusation.

As a mother, I could understand the fury on both sides. It came from the place in our hearts and soul to defend our children at any cost. Both sides believe their children are being harmed by a seemingly detached group of individuals that has the power and ability to control their well-being. 

My husband serves as president of the California Parent Alliance and runs a regular podcast highlighting our kids' issues in public school. We also happen to do a daily devotional podcast together. Being a well-known figure at these school board meetings, he was approached by one of the moms from the opposing side. Apparently, amidst the last session's anger, passion, and tension, a couple of the attendees were afraid to walk alone in the parking lot. He was slightly surprised she chose him because of their opposing viewpoints, but as she put it, "I knew you would do the right thing." This incident made me realize how important it is as Christians to remember we are always representations of Him.

"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us, we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." 2 Corinthians 5:20

Whether we like it or not, people judge Christianity by how we behave. Will our actions draw people towards God, or will it repel them? There is nothing wrong with having strong convictions about what's right for our families, but we must still manifest fruits of the Holy Spirit:  kindness, compassion, forbearance, and self-control.

We live in challenging times, and conflict is all around us. If we are not fighting over politics, it is over our children, the economy, or even the potential of a world war. Yet, for believers, we have a higher calling. In these instances, we must remember the Lord tells us to "shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16

After months of shouting matches, name-calling, and a lack of resolution on the most pressing issues, one parent invited everyone to a prayer circle after the meeting concluded. "We have done everything but pray." She was right, and it was time to call down God's grace and healing.  

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4.6

Hedieh Mirahmadi was a devout Muslim for two decades working in the field of national security before she experienced the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and has a new passion for sharing the Gospel.  She dedicates herself full-time to Resurrect Ministry, an online resource that harnesses the power of the Internet to make salvation through Christ available to people of all nations, and her daily podcast LivingFearlessDevotional.com.

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