women angry yelling at policemen
BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN CLASH — Passionate parents argue with DeLand police officers that they should be allowed to attend a September 2021 Volusia County School Board meeting without wearing masks. Several times during the past two years, arguments over pandemic-related rules have disrupted School Board meetings. Many of the parents at this meeting wore T-shirts that read “I don’t co-parent with the government.”

Volusia County School Board candidate Jaclyn Carrell is making no secret of her reasons for running. She told the host of an online radio program she is embroiled in a “spiritual war” to defend “Western civilization.”

Carrell’s remarks were broadcast on The Buff Show, an online radio program. 

Her decision to run for the District 1 seat, Carrell told host Matt Buff, came when she was among parents trespassed from a School Board meeting in October 2020 for refusing to comply with the School District’s mask mandate.

“I told them, we see through you,” she said she told DeLand police officers who trespassed the protesters who defied the mask rules. “We see what’s happening, and we’re coming for these seats.”

After that, Carrell became involved with the organization Moms for Liberty, founded last year in Florida amid local battles over COVID-related mandates. The group styles itself as grassroots, but it has close ties to Florida Republicans like Brevard Rep. Randy Fine.

Like many of her Moms for Liberty compatriots, Carrell seems to despise many aspects of the public school system. She referred to it as “indoctrination camp,” and seems to believe, a la Sen. Joe McCarthy in the 1950s, that “progressives” have infiltrated every corner of Volusia County Schools.

To that end, Carrell’s a big supporter of private and charter schools.

“I feel like the public schools, the way they’re functioning, it’s not broken. It’s functioning the way it is on purpose, and that needs to be dismantled,” she said in another interview with podcast host Brittney Jones.

Carrell did not talk in the interviews about school funding or the district’s ongoing teacher shortage.

“We are truly not only in a spiritual war and a political war, but a culture war, and that’s what they’re really attacking,” Carrell said. “It’s this whole other ideology that wants to destroy Western civilization and our values as a whole.”

School Board District 1 includes the DeLand and Pierson areas, along with parts of DeBary and Orange City. That seat on the School Board is currently occupied by DeBary resident Jamie Haynes, who is running for re-election. Two other candidates are in the race with Carrell and Haynes — DeLandites Georgann Carnicella and Ginny-Beth Joiner. Carrell also lives in DeLand.

The race is nonpartisan, but Carcinella and Joiner are registered as Democrats; Carrell and Haynes are registered as Republicans.

School Board candidates have until noon on Friday, June 17, to register to run. So far, in addition to the four candidates who have filed to run for the District 1 seat, there are two candidates in the running for the District 5 seat, which covers Southwest Volusia, and five in the race for the District 3 seat, which covers Southeast Volusia.

Why focus on extremes?

As some of the School Board races show the potential of turning into a culture war battleground, one parent, Jessica Hathaway, said she hopes compassion prevails.

Hathaway attended a number of School Board meetings in the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she said she was struck by how many people came in to, as she put it, “voice concerns about everything going on in society.”

“I think the pandemic has really put everyone under a lot of pressure, and I think people are taking sides and doubling down on their feelings,” Hathaway told The Beacon. “I don’t feel like children’s education has to be the space where it’s either-or. I think there’s a big space for compassion in teaching our young people how to be better people.”

That’s what education’s about, Hathaway, the daughter of an educator, said. She has three children: two in Volusia County public schools, and a third who will move to a public high school once he completes Montessori school. 

“I’m hoping reason prevails, but we’re in a time of noise in our society right now. We need to voice passion and understanding for each other instead of the anger we see at the forefront these days,” Hathaway said. “The majority of people in Volusia County aren’t one extreme or another, they just want their kids educated.”

Dr. Asal Johnson is another Volusia County parent who has attended School Board meetings and fears the election may be heading in a direction less focused on local issues.

“Candidates who push agendas that are political, rather than educational, would compromise critical thinking and in-depth learning processes of learning. They have shown that they are willing to prioritize political and culture wars to what is needed most in our schools: teachers, supplies, staff, and resources that would facilitate a high-quality educational experience for the children of Volusia taxpayers,” she said. “People can simply check the donations to these candidates and see that their largest financial supports come from out of county, or even out of state. These candidates are not here to protect Volusia children and parents, rather to play some political game.”

One important way people can help with their kids’ education — and their community at large — Hathaway said, is by turning out for local elections, especially when those elections aren’t tied to prominent national races. 

The School Board races will be on the ballot this fall. Those with more than two candidates will be on the ballot in the August primary. Two-person races, and runoffs — in races where no candidate wins outright in the primary — will come before voters in November. 

For more information about candidates and local and state races, visit www.volusiaelections.gov.

Editors note: According to Volusia County Moms for Liberty Chair Jenifer Kelly, Carrell’s membership from the group was revoked in February. In a Facebook post, Kelly stated the cause was Carrell not agreeing to discuss “issues that had come up that were concerning to us.”


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