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JOHNSTON, Iowa – Heated meetings are becoming common in the Johnston school district, and Monday night was no exception.

The three new school board members faced protest ahead of their swearing in, after they campaigned against curriculum that includes elements of critical race theory and signed the 1776 Pledge to restore an “honest, patriotic education.”

Students and parents say they marched to the school board meeting to not protest the new school board members, but ask that their decision to sign the pledge be denounced.

“The hypocrisy of our district to say we focus on equity and inclusion and then go on to push away the histories of all people but those of white Christians and to force a religion and a one-sided way of thinking is immoral,” one student said.

Derek Tidball, Deb Davis, and Clint Evans sat and listened as students went to the podium to share their frustrations.

“We must be able to create safe places for students to discuss these things,” another student said. “I was lucky to have staff that constantly lent an ear and created these spaces, but when you threaten them with this pledge, where do I go when so many are planning leaving this district because of the toxic curriculum you want to enforce? Where can I be heard? Where can I be seen?”

Parents also voiced their concerns.

“To look at this 1776 Pledge, I thought man this thing must be awful. This must be horrible, must be something that must be bad in it. I read it and I’m like wow we’re supposed to treat people as equal. We’re supposed to love our country, I mean this is something we should all come together on.”

After the three new members were sworn in, no action was taken on the topic as it wasn’t an item on the agenda. It definitely won’t be the last of this discussion.

The next Johnston school board meeting will be held on Dec. 13.