To Move Forward, Reflect then Vote

Two recent NAFC Blog articles highlighted the importance of remembering our past. In July, Carrie Grummons wrote about her family’s trip to Germany. She reflected upon how the United States deals with the ugly parts of our history in a vastly different way from how the Germans have dealt with theirs (Why Remembering Is Important | Newtown Allies For Change). “As we walked through the city, we saw plaques and signs, fountains and flowers, and even just buildings, scarred with bullet holes accompanied by solemn words about atrocities which occurred by Germans against other Germans,” wrote Carrie. Forgetting the lessons of the Holocaust is an unlikelihood in Germany, and with an entire nation unwilling to forget, I suspect that the chance of another genocide ever occurring on German soil is remote.

While German citizens willingly and openly confront and learn from their past, the same cannot be said about our country. My recollection of my high school American History classes in the early 1980’s does not include studying the culture and experience of Indigenous peoples. The very basics were taught at the primary level, but I don’t recall much beyond that. For example, I did not learn about “Indian” boarding schools (Remembering Indigenous Families on the First Day of School | Newtown Allies For Change). Sure, we studied slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, but not in a way that was thorough or that examined the ways our country is still awash in racism. That I can recall, we never learned about Hispanic contributions to our nation.

I don’t know how my Nebraska high school education of forty years ago compares to Newtown students’ today. My memory is imprecise and my knowledge of the Newtown Public Schools curriculum is, at best, outdated. However, there is a national movement of which we are all aware and it threatens to undermine Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in American schools.

That movement strives to keep the topics of race, gender, and sexuality out of the schools. It purports that slavery was beneficial to the enslaved because of the skills they acquired under the system (Wow! The perks of being enslaved! Who knew??). That movement results in trans kids being banned from playing the sports that they love and requiring them to use bathrooms where they will be emotionally (or in some cases, physically) unsafe. Under the guise of “parental rights”, it seeks to erase the experiences of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ school children of all ages by removing literature and other teaching materials that provide those students much-needed representation. 

The “parental rights” movement isn’t exclusive to “red states”. It is here. One can surmise through reading letters in The Newtown Bee and listening to speakers at BOE meetings, that we have folks among us who want Newtown to adopt the racist, transphobic, and homophobic policies implemented in states like Florida and Texas. 

One small, yet turbulent, example we witnessed in Newtown was the book banning scandal last spring. I’ll spare you the recap, but suffice it to say, it was a shitshow. 

When a group of parents or Board of Education members decide that their opinions about what materials should and should not be in our school libraries is more important than the professional assessments of teachers, library media specialists, administrators, and other educators, it chips away at the integrity of our school system. It diminishes the faith that school employees, parents, and the general public have in the BOE. To elevate the opinion of parents and Board members over that of school librarians and media specialists around the country is to risk the quality and seriousness of education in Newtown. 

The next time there is a call for a book ban—or the next time a parent complains that learning about racism is going to cause their children to feel bad about being white—I want to feel confident that Newtown’s Board of Education is unwavering in their support of DEI. I want to know that each member trusts the expertise and experience of our educators and will be resolute in listening to and learning from BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students and families.

We are weeks away from our local Board of Education election. It’s time to remember our shared history. Newtown needs a BOE that recognizes that embracing culturally responsive education is not political. This is us. American history should include all of us and all of our history. A healthy school system requires a BOE that values all students and families in their district enough to know that having  BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks represented in teaching materials and library books is good for our entire community.

Voters, it is time to remember how we felt during the book banning debacle and remember how it felt to be going backwards and not forwards. I challenge you to ask the candidates where they stand on Newtown’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policy. Do they support it? What would they do as Board members to ensure it is properly implemented? What value do they see in culturally responsive education? Who do they think should curate the book collection available to students in our school libraries?

This is an important election. 

Please vote.


A note about voting:

1. Register to vote here

2. Vote Absentee if you can’t vote in person – start the process soon to allow time to submit your ballot request, receive your ballot by mail, and return it by Election Day.

▸ Request your Absentee Ballot online with a DMV-issued Connecticut ID or request one from the Town Clerk with a paper application, Newtown Municipal Center, 3 Primrose St, Newtown, CT 06470. See this link:…/Voter-Information/Absentee-Voting

▸ After the Town Clerk receives your Absentee Ballot application, they will mail your Absentee Ballot to you; ballots are available beginning Oct 6.

▸Ballots must be returned to the Town Clerk by mail, in person, or dropped in the Secure Absentee Voter Drop Box located outside Municipal Center by Election Day on November 7.

3. Not sure if you are already registered to vote? You can check here: