Time and again over the last two years, parents and protesters have derailed school board meetings across the country. Once considered tame, even boring, the meetings have become polarized battlegrounds over COVID-19 safety measures, LGBTQ+ student rights, “obscene” library books and attempts to teach children about systemic racism in America.

On dozens of occasions, the tensions at the meetings have escalated into not just shouting matches and threats but also arrests and criminal charges.

ProPublica identified nearly 90 incidents in 30 states going back to the spring of 2021. (That’s when the majority of boards resumed gathering in-person after predominantly holding meetings virtually.) Our examination — the first wide-ranging analysis of school board unrest — found that at least 59 people were arrested or charged over an 18-month period, from May 2021 to November 2022. Prosecutors dismissed the vast majority of the cases, most of them involving charges of trespassing, resisting an officer or disrupting a public meeting. Almost all of the incidents were in suburban districts, and nearly every participant was white.

In the course of our analysis, […]

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