School board races in the 2022 midterms show what’s at stake for students.

by Mary Retta, Teen Vogue

Nick Gothard, a nonprofit program manager, grew up in Loudoun County, Virginia. Gothard attended public schools there his whole life, where he says he got a great education and benefited from other programs in his county, such as a free lunch provision. Recently, he decided to run for a school board position there, an act of care and gratitude for the county he has long called home. “I’ve seen enemies of public education try to dismantle the public education systems that gave me so many opportunities in life,” Gothard tells Teen Vogue. “This is why it felt very important to me to run.”

School board meeting with parents voting

On Election Day — November 8 — Gothard’s hotly contested race will come to a head. Loudoun, which is in northern Virginia, has been in the news recently as an epicenter of the “critical race theory” wars in schools, debates among educators and government officials over which elements of race and US history should be allowed on the curriculum. In 2021, a local school meeting held, in part, to discuss whether teachers would be required to address transgender students by their preferred names and pronouns and whether students could use bathrooms matching their gender identity ended in the arrest of a parent. Gothard’s opponents in the 2022 race, Andrew Hoyler and Tiffany Polifko, have both attended events hosted by the local chapter of Moms for Liberty, a conservative group whose members have advocated for segregating LGBTQ students into separate classrooms in schools, among other things.

Loudoun County is one of thousands of counties that will have school board elections this year. The slate of issues in these elections is long and incredibly contentious: how race and history are taught in schools; what COVID protocols will look like inside classrooms; the quality of life for LGBTQ students, and more.

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