U-46 board member who opposed textbooks with 'anti-American bias' finds support
Student-led petitions calling for the removal of Elgin Area School District U-46 school board member Jeanette Ward over controversial comments she made last month stirred emotions on both sides at Monday night's school board meeting.
More than 500 people signed their own petition in favor of keeping Ward on the board, and many publicly criticized students and other officials for trying to silence her views.
At an April school board meeting, Ward opposed the adoption of new high school social studies textbooks and expansion of the district's dual language program into seventh grade this fall.
In a blog post, Ward detailed her objections to the social studies textbooks, citing "an overarching and pervasive politically left bias, a love affair with Karl Marx, factual inaccuracies about the history of Islam and Israel, global warming pseudoscience without opposing viewpoint, anti-American bias, anti-traditional family bias, anti-war dogma with no opposing viewpoint, and profound moral relativism."
Calling for Ward's resignation based on her comments is against American values of freedom of speech, said Brock Friedman of Hanover Park.
"Her detractors have chosen to attack our country and our Constitution and the fundamental rights upon which all that we hold dear rest," Friedman said. "Some of you may not like what Mrs. Ward has to say or what she thinks. You have that right. It's enshrined in the Constitution. Because of it you can express your opinion, gather and discuss it, and in the next election vote in someone else.
"But what you cannot do is form a mob and demand her removal and try to deny her constitutionally protected freedom of speech. The purpose of having a board is to have diverse opinions who balance each other."
Joseph Strom of Elgin, a Larkin High School junior and student council president, said students often are belittled and told not to get involved in the decision-making process, with claims that they don't comprehend the complexity of issues.
"We care deeply enough to come here tonight to stand up for the future of our education and the education of thousands of other students in this district," he said. "As elected representatives of this district, each of you has a responsibility to the voters, taxpayers, parents and children whose futures you have the ability to profoundly influence. Although we were unable to cast our votes at the ballot boxes, our voices as representative of the students in our schools should still be heard. The number of high school students in this district alone is more than double the number of votes Mrs. Ward received, and that matters."
Strom said school board members affirm in their code of conduct that they will represent all school district constituents, honestly and equally.
"Do not let apathy get in the way of your civic duty," he said.
Many students and parents also voiced support for expanding the dual language program, which they said has helped students become bilingual and biliterate, and better qualified for a global job market.
"Dual language adds value to our district and is worth every penny," said Kate Thommes of Elgin. "Just look at the statistics or visit a classroom. Literally, they are smarter."