Thursday, June 30, 2022

Today's threats could echo tomorrow

| October 6, 2021 1:00 AM

Harsh criticism is one thing.

But where’s the line that separates a stern rebuke from a legitimate threat, freedom of speech from a possible arrest?

On Tuesday, we reported on the phenomenon of school board members resigning across the nation. While it is not the only reason, masking has become a lightning rod for intense public vitriol in schools.

In the Coeur d’Alene area and throughout Idaho, you can add manifestations of critical race theory to the mix that brings vocal, angry critics off their couches and into school board meetings.

The last time the Coeur d’Alene school board tried to publicly address masks and quarantines, an angry mob — yes, it was a mob, not a peaceful gathering of protesters — derailed the meeting to the point that police had to block the doors while school board members were safely escorted out the back door.

It’s happening elsewhere, too. A school board meeting Aug. 17 in Mesa County, Colo., also saw police escorting board members to their cars after they were unable to de-escalate a meeting that had spun out of control.

When, then, does criticism cross the line and become a threat? Is the following statement a criticism, or a threat?

“If you push this and take away what God intended, it might make us desperate. You may be sorry you did.”

Or this?

“Botting, I understand that you’re the one spearheading this. You can expect to stand trial for crimes against humanity.”

These statements were uttered last week not in a school board meeting, but in a public hearing about Kootenai County’s form of government.

Like school board members, volunteer citizens are attempting to serve their community. In this case they're examining different ways the county might be governed. No recommendations have been made by the group, yet they're constantly harassed anyway.

Coeur d’Alene has just lost two fine school board members in Jen Brumley and Tambra Pickford. Control of a district with some 10,000 students will be determined in the Nov. 2 local elections.

Those uttering the threats today might be on the receiving end tomorrow. Is that really what we’ve come to as a community?

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