Name-Calling and Calling the Police: How N.Y.C. Parent Meetings Got Mean

New York City has never been immune to heated education fights, but in recent months they have taken on a new level of vitriol and aggression, and expandedtoa broader menu of divisive issues.

The battles reflect the nation’s growing political divide even in this deep blue city, as parents layer old debates — how issues of race and discrimination are taught in schools, for example — over newer ones, such as the role of transgender students in sports and how schools should address the Israel-Hamas war.

Parents have shouted over each other, called each other bigots and made formal complaints about behavior at meetings traditionally focused on issues like school improvements and student achievement. Some parents have filed police reports against each other for harassment. One woman said she was mailed a parcel with feces inside.

The battlegrounds have also multiplied, from a few notoriously quarrelsome parent councils to traditionally peaceful spots around the city.

In other districts around the country, changes in school board policy can transform what happens in classrooms. In New York City, the parent councils where many of the fights are occurring — and which represent the public school system’s 32 districts — have little power, because the mayor controls the schools.

But the new battles — about issues that don’t always break cleanly along party lines — have created a challenge for an administration trying to manage what is perhaps the nation’s most diverse school district.

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