Education Reform

Trevor Nelson Explains How Parents Fought Back Against Extremists in Arizona to Demand Safe Schools

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Parent activist Trevor Nelson explains how parents organized to get accurate medical information to other parents and the public. Governor Doug Ducey took a strong stand against mask mandates, and anti-maskers turned school board meetings into screaming matches. Nelson organized parent opposition to policies that endangered their children. He tells his story here at ”Public Voices for Public Schools,” a new website created by the Network for Public Education.

He begins:

Arizona had a problem. The people showing up at our local board meetings were anti-mask and anti-vaccine. Meanwhile, other parents had stopped showing up to the meetings because they felt frustrated and fearful of speaking up at all. Getting yelled at, hooted out, called a liar, and threatened will do that to you. It was starting to feel like the 2020 election all over again. And yet for all of the rancor, I knew that most parents felt the way I did: desperate to get their kids back to school as safely as possible. 

My friend and fellow parent advocate Jessica Wani and I hatched a plan, with the help of some great Arizona healthcare workers to provide grounding in science and data. We’d begin collecting signatures from our fellow Arizonans to put pressure on the state government, local government and school boards, including as many representatives from the medical community as we could get. Even as our governor doubled and tripled down on his extreme anti-mask position, we were determined to demonstrate that when it comes to common sense safety measures in schools, public opinion is on our side.

We started small, with a single google form that people could easily sign, then we began to work on elected officials: boards of supervisors, city councilors, mayors, legislators—we reached out to all of them. And we kept our efforts intentionally non-partisan, making a point of not asking signers about their political affiliation. Next our scrappy team reached out to representatives of the medical community, including pediatricians, family doctors and public health experts.The number of signers quickly grew. By the time we put out our first newsletter, filled with the latest info about health and safety protocols in schools, we were up to 4,000 people. 

The puzzle pieces began to fall into place. As we reached out to medical experts, we also encouraged them to raise their voices. And they did. Doctors and other medical professionals started writing their own letters, reporting on what they were seeing on the ground in real time, as hospitals in Arizona began to fill with COVID patients. They also urged their own colleagues to get involved and help make the case for vaccines, masking and social distancing in schools.

Please read the rest of his account. He is well that the parents and medical community are up against a governor who wants to dismantle public education. But they keep fighting.

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