Dispelling myths to collectively create success

By Amy Kappelman

Pittsboro, NC – As a parent of four children in Chatham County schools, I agree with the Chatham County school board and administration’s constant and consistent celebration of our schools — there is much to celebrate. My children have attended four of these schools, and one just graduated last year from the amazing Chatham School of Science and Engineering. I honestly can’t say enough good things about my experience with the teachers and principals in all four schools.  

Before I started the Chatham Chapter of Moms for Liberty, and before the schools shut down, I had been volunteering in the schools almost every week. Since the shutdowns, I have spent hours at school board meetings wanting to learn more about how decisions are made, who is making them and where our tax dollars are being spent. 

Our chapter came about because, despite efforts to participate in listening sessions, focus groups and board meetings, the legitimate ideas and concerns of a large group of concerned parents have been repeatedly ignored. It was, and still is, our sincere goal to give voice to those disenfranchised parents and seek out solutions that work for all Chatham County families.

To offer some clarity around our organization, I’d like to underscore one very persistent misconception about Moms for Liberty: Despite the media narrative, Moms for Liberty has never banned any books, nor will we. We do, however, insist on age-appropriate materials in schools similar to movies having “Parental Guidance” ratings of “PG” and “PG-13”. We don’t say those movies are banned, do we? Regarding our specific chapter, we have not discussed books nor do we have any intention of banning books in our schools.

Ironically, the only book that seems to be under any scrutiny within our school system is, inexplicably, our U.S. Constitution. Two months ago — the week of Constitution Day, September 17th — our chapter distributed free pocket Constitutions to every CCS 8th grader through the generous donation from the 917 Society, a national civic minded non-profit organization. However, the CCS administration has yet to distribute these Constitutions to the students. Instead, an email has gone out to the 8th grade parents asking for consent to receive a Constitution. Interestingly, Moms for Liberty across the country has been accused of book banning simply because we ask for parental consent for certain age inappropriate books. Therefore, by this measure, is Chatham County Schools banning our Constitution? Reasonable people understand asking for parental consent is not the equivalent to banning books. My hope is we can finally put that false accusation to rest.

We live in challenging times. We have seen a significant spike in mental health issues among students, a national teacher shortage, and, most alarming, a sharp decline in accountability with respect to student bullying and violence. All too often, parents of bullied students are told by principals, “There’s nothing I can do”.  I know this because, almost weekly, I receive phone calls from parents asking for help. Desperate parents are calling me, someone who does not work for the school system, because they don’t know where else to turn. Clearly, the system is not working. The Board of Education members should serve as advocates for public interest by asking hard questions and holding the district and administration accountable. Moms for Liberty’s intentions have always been to foster that accountability.

While it’s great to celebrate our schools, celebrating for the sake of disguising your weaknesses and shortcomings doesn’t help our students and teachers. I know this school district can do better for every student throughout our county. The Board of Education members are elected officials who should be representing the entire county and challenging district employees to explain poor results and to readjust their priorities accordingly. Board members should serve as advocates for public interest by asking hard questions and holding the district and administration accountable. Perhaps spend more time making the case to parents that the School Improvement Plans you are implementing will make a real, tangible difference for all of its students — including those in western Chatham County. 

Moms for Liberty is not here to ban books or to denigrate everything this board and administration has accomplished. Despite how the media characterizes us, Moms for Liberty is here to fight for all children regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. We are here, and will continue to be here, in the spirit of the Chatham County Schools tagline, to “Collectively Create Success”. It is my hope that all parents are included in achieving that collective success story.