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Wake County school board candidate backs arming teachers

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A fourth-grade teacher receives firearms training with a .357 magnum during concealed weapons training.

AP

A Wake County school board candidate accused public schools Saturday of being a tool for socialist indoctrination and advocated allowing teachers to have guns in school.

Michele Morrow, the Republican-backed candidate for the District 9 school board seat, said during a debate Saturday that teachers should be allowed to exercise their Second Amendment right to conceal-carry a firearm. But Morrow added that she doesn’t think teachers should be responsible for providing safety for their students.

“What I’m saying, as a Constitutional Second Amendment right, every person should have the ability to protect themselves,” said Morrow, a nurse and homeschool parent. “There’s no reason, as I said, for a child to ever know that the teacher ever had a gun in the locked bottom drawer of their desk.”

“Do I think that it is the right of every person to have that?” Morrow continued. “Absolutely. But do I think that is the way to promote safety in our schools? No, I don’t.”

Morrow made her comments at a candidates forum at the Bond Park Community Center in Cary. District 9 includes much of the Wake County town.

Morrow called for having a school resource officer in every school, including elementary schools.

Tyler Swanson, the Democratic-backed candidate for the District 9 seat, said allowing teachers to have guns in school would create a mass exodus of educators. Swanson, a former special-education teacher, said the Wake school district has opposed arming teachers.

“I unequivocally oppose putting guns in the hands of teachers because that is a disaster that is just waiting to happen,” Swanson said.

North Carolina law would need to be changed to allow teachers to carry firearms on campus. Various bills have been proposed to allow teachers to be armed, but all have stalled in the legislature.

Nancy Douglas, the forum’s sponsor, said school board candidate Tara Ann Cartwright did not accept an invitation to attend the debate. The seat is open because board member Karen Carter isn’t running for re-election.

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Michele Morrow of Cary, N.C. works to unify a crowd of more than 100 activists who gathered to protest a variety of topics across the street from The Executive Mansion in Raleigh, N.C. on Saturday, March 20, 2021. Robert Willett [email protected]

‘Socialistic indoctrination program’

The election takes place at time when Republicans hope to gain a majority on the school board. The board is officially non-partisan but has a Democratic majority.

All nine school board seats are on the Nov. 8 ballot. But five incumbents aren’t running for re-election.

Conservatives, such as Morrow, have accused schools of allowing sexually inappropriate books in libraries and promoting a liberal agenda through the use of Critical Race Theory.

Morrow answered “yes” when she was asked if she believed that the public schools are a “socialistic indoctrination program.” Morrow said schools are teaching students “culturally that the United States is systemically racist” and that teachers are being told “to apologize for their whiteness.”

“The whole plan of the public educational system from day one has actually been to kind of control the thinking of our young people,” Morrow said.

Swanson said “it’s not even worth my response” when he was given a chance to respond to Morrow’s comments.

Later in the debate, Swanson said teachers are leaving the profession because of “hateful rhetoric” from people who are making “asinine claims” about what’s being taught in the classroom.

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Enloe High School teacher Tyler Swanson works with his freshman English class remotely from his dining room table in his apartment on Monday, August 17, 2020 in Cary, N.C. Swanson is in his third year of teaching, and was spending most of the first day of classes orienting himself and his students to remote learning due to the COVID-19 virus. Robert Willett [email protected]

Jan. 6 insurrection

The debate got heated when Swanson pointed out that Morrow was in Washington during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot when supporters of then-President Trump made the unproven claim that President Joe Biden had “stolen” the election.

Morrow says that she didn’t participate when rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

The exchange began when Morrow said that “government schools” need to remove books from their libraries and classrooms that depict children engaging in sex acts.

Swanson said he trusts school librarians to have age-appropriate books for students who are engaging in their First Amendment rights to read them.

“If my dear friend to my left was able to exercise her First Amendment right on Jan. 6th, our students should be able to do the exact same thing,” Swanson said. “But I have never seen a book in our school library that has caused a deadly insurrection. I have never seen a book in our school that has caused students to cause harm.”

Morrow complained to the moderator that Swanson was being allowed to go off topic and to attack her.

Earlier in the debate, Morrow noted that Swanson was arrested during Moral Monday protests in Raleigh. The Moral Monday movement gained national attention for mass arrests protesting the actions of the Republican-led General Assembly.

“Yes, I have been active,” Morrow said. “But I have never been arrested for my actions politically being active.”

This story was originally published September 10, 2022 7:19 PM.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.