School districts across the state are dealing with something that may have been absent for some time: parents involving themselves with school boards. 

In Dripping Springs Independent School District near Austin, parents are facing a school board that doesn’t appear to value their opinion. Ashley Whittenberger, a resident, created a video that shows the board’s reaction to parents who showed up to demand a change in the mask policy. During the meeting, “the board president essentially [threatened] parents with arrest if they didn’t put their masks on and have them pulled up over their noses,” said Whittenberger. 

The board meeting video is not available on the district’s website at this time. 

“Their elitist behavior is nothing new, but what is new is that more parents are watching now, and they’re shocked,” Whittenberger said. 

She went on to say DSISD Board President Barbara Stroud “proceeded to engage in her typical behavior of ignoring parents during public comment by loudly shuffling papers, offering the occasional eye roll, and behaving with complete disdain for the taxpayers she’s elected to represent.”

Members of the board who were up for re-election faced several challengers this cycle.   

Board member Mary Jane Hetrick posted on Facebook, “This election was particularly tough because some people who should know better, know me better, allowed themselves to get drawn into the mob-like fervor that played on people’s fears, resulting in a ‘throw-them-all-out’ chorus.”

“Parents are still being harassed and threatened at public school board meetings if they don’t wear—or don’t properly wear—their masks. It doesn’t even feel like we live in America anymore,” Whittenberger said.

That same day, a North Texas parent was banned from the Frisco ISD building for six months. 

Michelle Napoli, who had returned to the states from Shanghai, China, in August, told the school board of her experience with the extreme lockdowns imposed by the communist Chinese government.  “The only thing that got me through was that at least in Texas, I would not have to deal with this. At least in Texas, people would stand up,” she said.

Napoli said juveniles heckled her while she was speaking—which went unaddressed by the board. Later during her comment, a power outage caused the microphone to go out. In an emotional end to her comment, she stated, “This is not the America I left. This is China 2.0, and I say that from experience.” 

After Napoli spoke, there was a recess to deal with the effects of the power outage. She left the room briefly, and when she saw those who had heckled her, she told them, “You need to get some perspective.” The police and school officials then asked Napoli to leave for bullying the students.

Upon returning to the meeting room to get her son, Napoli was confronted again. She was ultimately allowed to stay but received a warning for criminally trespassing and is banned from the meetings for six months.  

Frisco ISD refused to comment when Texas Scorecard reached out to them. 

Tera Collum

Tera Collum has 13 years experience as a government and economics teacher in Texas public schools. She recently was the director of The Travis Institute of Educational Policy and Teachers for Texas.