Activist seeks to target Clover Park school board member
A local activist who lost a race for school board is now promoting a petition that seeks to target the candidate who defeated her.
Taniesha Lyons lost a race for Clover Park School Board in November 2019, garnering 38% of the vote. Her opponent, Paul Wagemann, a respected community member and veteran (thank you for your service, Boardmember Wagemann) won with 61%. Wagemann believes education is the key to every child’s success and that Clover Park public schools should help all students reach their fullest potential.
Lyons says she opposes the way Wagemann urged his fellow boardmembers, at a public meeting in December, to help students be prepared for success in life by reducing the dropout rate and increasing graduations at local high schools. Wagemann said he thinks the district’s policy goal for student graduations should be 100%. Lyons says she thinks Wagemann is “a racist” and wants him expelled from the board.
So far a petition Lyons is circulating has garnered fewer than 200 signatures, mostly activists and politicians, in a school district of over 12,000 families.
The problem is that targeted attacks like this by a losing candidate violate election norms, and discourage caring members of the community from seeking public service. Aggression and cancel culture have a chilling effect on free speech and open debate, and lead to frustration by those who are sincerely trying to help children learn.
Most people in Clover Park and all across Washington want open and inclusive communities that encourage civic engagement about issues that are important to the students and families. Hostile personal attacks shut down debate, and make people live in fear that some casual word or phrase will be twisted and suddenly used against them.
It appears the school board will take up the matter at its meeting on Monday. As a new year begins, let’s hope school officials can speak honestly and without fear, and that an ethic of kindness, tolerance and mutual understanding prevails, in Clover Park schools and in all communities.