August 19, 2021 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

School board member in rural Kentucky: ‘I have never experienced so much hate’

School boards are inundated with disinfo as delta variant spreads.

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The day before school started on August 11, Anderson County, Kentucky, school board member Rose Morgan received a text message from a former board member: “Shame on you for trying to take the prayer out of the school board meeting. Ever wonder what might happen if you did?”

I ask if Ms. Morgan considers this a threat. She says, emphatically, yes.

It is standard practice that our meetings begin in prayer. Tonight, Ms. Morgan has added, “Please forgive those people in our community and our news media that are spreading untruths … It will get people killed,” and that God “has given us two tools to fight this virus, a mask and a vaccine. Please let us try to control this virus.”


Four days into the school year, our county health department announces it is already, in a word, overwhelmed. “We can’t even reach all of our positive cases, let alone their contacts,” a public health nurse says. “It’s too overwhelming because it’s getting so widespread.”


I count 40 people in the room. No social distancing. Only two of us and a cameraman wear masks throughout. And within hours, Ms. Morgan’s comments are all over local social media, roundly ridiculed and dismissed. 

We are a small county of 23,000, 15 miles from the state capitol. Trump flags fly in abundance here, and United States Senator Rand Paul is often lauded as a hero for shunning the vaccine and masks and for fighting regularly with Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

According to the CDC, our current vaccination rate is 47.9 percent.

We have all viewed the videos of recent school board meetings where citizens are seen being patted down by sheriff’s deputies for weapons or heard screaming about everything from mask mandates to vaccine denial.

But what we do not hear about are the hundreds, if not thousands, of seemingly normal school board meetings like mine. The calm, orderly meetings where no one ends up in a viral Twitter video but citizens stand and deliver the same egregious falsehoods and conspiracy theories without the theatrics to attract too much public attention. 

There are, therefore, no consequences. There is, therefore, no shaming to keep them from doing it again. There is, therefore, no check or balance. And this makes school board meetings like mine insidiously dangerous.

At our August meeting, for example, a man named Richard spoke at length about how the board and superintendent are not giving its “customers,” its citizens, what they want. His voice was even-tempered. And then I opened his Facebook page to see a Dan Bognino video with the caption “Dad goes NUCLEAR on ‘Fascist’ school board over plan to censor furious parents.” In one post he has written, “Defund the CDC. Defund the CDC. Defund the CDC,” and in another that “the Kentucky Republican Party needs to embrace ‘Trumpism’ for lack of a better term, or they will be replaced.” 

A woman who introduced herself as Katie said her main reason for appearing was to discuss critical race theory—the same as she did last month when she unfurled a long, conspiracy-laden speech that also earned her a big write-up as a voice of reason in our local newspaper. Tonight Katie demanded the school board develop a policy on CRT. She told them if they say nothing, she has no choice but to assume the worst, that CRT will be taught in our schools. I checked Katie’s Facebook page. Her profile photo is an American flag inside a green circle that reads: I don’t care if you’ve had your vaccine.

Both Richard and Katie received big rounds of applause. But other than one school board member—the dismissed and ridiculed Ms. Morgan—and one concerned mother of an 11-year-old girl, there was no discussion of the delta variant, masks or vaccines. 

After our July meeting, the vice chairwoman of the school board closed by saying, “I would just like to say that I would like to see patriotic education taught.” People cheered. After tonight’s meeting she tells our local newspaper, “The material that the masks are made out of that your basic person is wearing is the same material as what their underwear is made out of. Why anybody would think [sic] that’s going to help them?”

When I read the articles pleading for those of us who are vaccinated to remain compassionate toward the unvaccinated, understanding of those who still refuse masks, 18 months into this pandemic—about how we need to listen better to their fears and make them feel heard—I want to invite those people to our county where we we remain below 50 percent vaccinated, where our overworked health department can’t give away free vaccines, and where we sit in routine school board meetings knowing that most of the people in the small, enclosed room with us are proudly, unapologetically, defiantly unvaccinated and unmasked. 

Four days into the school year, our county health department announces it is already, in a word, overwhelmed. “We can’t even reach all of our positive cases, let alone their contacts,” a public health nurse says. “It’s too overwhelming because it’s getting so widespread.”

This is what’s happening right now, all over the country. What will this mean for our kids? For all of us?

I contact Ms. Morgan to ask how she thinks the school year is going thus far. 

“When you hear mask material is made from the same material as underwear, it makes me want to fight disinformation more,” she said. “People are so far down the rabbit hole. There are parents who are still fighting [the governor’s] mask mandates.” She adds that there are already approximately a hundred students under quarantine, which is up more than half from two days ago, and that 30 students and five staff have tested positive.

We have only been in school one week.

As a school board member, is this what Ms. Morgan expected?

“Never in a million years did I think I would be fighting for children’s health against people who are supposed to be educated,” she said. “I have experienced so much hate. Our last board meeting went extremely well in light of what has happened in other places, but I am scared for our next meeting in September. I expect there to be anti-mask protests, and of course they are going to make sure we pray.”

I am scared, too. We all should be.


Teri Carter is a writer in central Kentucky. She has written for the Post, the Times and the Lexington Herald-Leader. She teaches at The Carnegie Center. Follow her @teri_atthepaper.

2 Comments

  1. David Mikulec on August 20, 2021 at 1:49 pm

    Hey Teri! Nice to see you here. Now I can better follow your work from here in Boyle Co.

  2. David Mikulec on August 20, 2021 at 4:23 pm

    Neglected to also add… I have no idea where all this anger is coming from. Even normally docile family members I know are going off the rails.

    Idiocracy come to life.

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