Editorial Roundup: North Carolina

Winston-Salem Journal. Sept 13, 2021.

Editorial: Jan. 6 justice begins

It’s a dubious distinction to be the first Triad resident convicted of a misdemeanor in relation to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the nation’s Capitol. It’s not something, we hope, that anyone would place on a resume. It’s more likely something that the resident in question hopes will disappear from public consciousness — the quicker, the better.

The distinction belongs to Virginia Marie Spencer, 38, of Pilot Mountain, who went to the Capitol at former President Trump’s behest and, along with her husband, Christopher Spencer, trespassed into the Capitol building.

Virginia Spencer pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building, the Journal’s Michael Hewlett reported last week. As part of a plea arrangement, three other misdemeanor charges were dropped. Spencer is required to pay $500 in restitution and could face a six-month prison sentence — sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2022.

Some will say the sentence is not punishment enough for participating in an attempt to overthrow the results of a presidential election. But six months in prison is no slap on the wrist.

There’s also, we have to say, a degree of nuance involved. It’s not likely that every participant intended to “hang (Vice President) Mike Pence,” as some chanted. Most certainly had no intention of attacking Capitol Police.

But some did. Out of more than 600 being charged with federal crimes, the most serious cases have been brought against members of two far-right extremist groups — the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. They deserve the harshest punishment that the law allows.

And the evidence — much accumulated from Christopher Spencer’s Facebook livestream — suggests that the Spencers’ visit was a bit more than a “normal tourist visit,” as Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia might put it. Christopher Spencer encouraged people to kick open the doors of the U.S. House chamber and yelled obscenities as police approached the mob inside the Capitol, authorities said. He’s heard saying that the crowd “stormed the Capitol, bro ... pushed the cops out of the way, everything ... took it over.”

Considering that, and considering the other misdemeanors with which Virginia Spencer could have been charged, we have to credit the court’s mercy.

It’s embarrassing that any North Carolinian participated in this travesty, fooled by former Trump’s Big Lie about the 2020 election being stolen. But we believe in redemption. The Spencers may yet take a more benevolent path. We hope they do.

Another rally at the Capitol is planned for Sept. 18, in support of the supposed “political prisoners” being held by the government. You know, the ones who practiced their free speech by violently attacking Capitol Police, many of whom were seriously injured and several of whom have died following the attack.

Authorities say rally participants have already recorded online threats of violence at the Sept. 18 rally, including a call for participants to “do justice” against “local jews and corrupted officials.” One 4chan poster said the demonstration should be used as a vehicle to participate in violent acts against local “Jewish centers and Liberal churches” while law enforcement is distracted.

Authorities have plenty of warning this time and we hope they’ll be better prepared.

We’ll be processing the Jan. 6 insurrection for many years to come. But this is one issue that Republicans will have to resolve for themselves, too.

Last week, speaking to Politico before a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that the Republican Party needed to be “the party that’s perceived to be telling the American people the truth.” During his speech, he said, “Pretending we won when we lost is a waste of time and energy and credibility.”

He’s right. But this is in contrast to a combined 59% of Republican voters who say that believing that Trump won the 2020 election is either very or somewhat important in defining what it means to be a Republican, according to a CNN poll released last week.

Republicans who want their party to have a respectable future have their work cut out for them.

As we’ve done before, we urge rank-and-file Republicans to take the more rational, more defensible and more conservative position of accepting reality and accepting election results. It would be better for the party and for the nation.

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Charlotte Observer. Sept. 12, 2021.

Editorial: NC Republicans say ideology has no place in schools. Does that include private ones?

This is what “school choice” looks like.

As North Carolina’s public schools remain woefully underfunded, millions of taxpayer dollars are siphoned into private schools that teach through a “biblical worldview” and discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.

The North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program, passed by the General Assembly in 2013, provides state-funded vouchers to eligible families to pay tuition at the private school of their choice. The program has cost the state upwards of $150 million since its inception, diverting funds away from public education in the process.

Supporters of the program — primarily Republicans — say it promotes school choice, extending equity and opportunity to lower-income students who otherwise may not have the means to attend private schools. But there’s not much accountability for private schools who receive state money.

Although Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, federal law states that religious private schools can claim exemptions to Title IX “to the extent that application of Title IX would be inconsistent with the religious tenets of the organization.” As a result, many private religious schools in North Carolina that receive funds through the Opportunity Scholarship Program have policies that target LGBTQ+ people, the Charlotte Observer reported. One school’s handbook says it can refuse admission or “discontinue enrollment” of a student “practicing homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity.”

In addition, private schools aren’t bound by state standards or a state-mandated curriculum, so they’re free to teach students as they see fit. A 2020 report from Duke Law School’s Children’s Law Clinic found that 92% of the vouchers have been used to pay tuition at religious schools. More than three-quarters of those schools use a biblically-based curriculum with concepts that directly contradict the state’s educational standards, the report said. At least some of these schools use textbooks from publishers that offer a troubling view of history, reporting from the Asheville Citizen-Times shows.

Republicans say that schools should be a place for truth, not ideology. But that only seems to be a problem when the ideology is something they disagree with. We’ve seen Republicans accuse teachers and public schools of indoctrinating students, and pass legislation that limits the discussion of concepts such as white privilege and systemic racism. Private schools, however, regularly mix ideology, curriculum and policy. After all, teaching through a “biblical worldview” could also be considered subjective.

Private schools have the right to teach what they want, of course, but public money shouldn’t fund efforts to use a worldview to discriminate. Public money should come with public accountability. But North Carolina’s accountability measures for the voucher program are among the weakest in the nation, Duke’s report said. In states such as Wisconsin, private schools must meet certain accreditation, academic and teacher licensing standards in order to participate in the program. North Carolina’s program does not include such requirements.

Meanwhile, the money that legislators are using to privatize education is going to waste. In recent years, the supply of funding for the program has outweighed demand, leaving millions in allocated state dollars unspent, even as funding for the program is scheduled to increase through the 2027-28 fiscal year. As funding for the Opportunity Scholarship Program continues to grow, North Carolina’s per-pupil spending remains among the lowest in the nation, and the state continues to forego its constitutional obligation to provide every student with a sound basic education. Despite repeated orders from a state judge to fully fund a plan for improving public education, Republican lawmakers seem to be doubling down on their refusal to do so — opening themselves up to a potential legal showdown.

Children don’t need taxpayer-funded private school choice; they need a high-quality education. Time and again, North Carolina has failed to give them that.

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Greensboro News & Record. Sept. 7, 2021.

Editorial: An officer in distress … at police headquarters

Out of the blue, a man walks onto the employee parking lot of police headquarters in downtown Greensboro and, using an accelerant, sets a marked patrol car on fire.

Then, according to police accounts, the man attacks an officer who is about to enter the building, striking the officer in the face and head repeatedly, then locking his arms around the officer’s neck.

The man attempts to grab the officer’s gun, according to police accounts.

Hearing the commotion, two other officers come to the scene.

Shots are fired. The man dies.

And now there are more questions than answers.

Is nowhere secure?

What emboldens someone to stage both acts of arson and assault at, of all places, police headquarters?

And why?

This tragic and puzzling tableau unfolded Aug. 27 and was as scary as it was confounding.

“It’s disturbing,” Police Chief Brian James said of the incident. “You think of (the police department) as a safe place.”

Well, at least we did.

Now the people whose job it is to keep us safe are having to worry about keeping themselves safe — not only while on patrol on the streets of the city, also while walking in the parking lot of a building filled with other police officers.

As for the reason behind the attack, all anyone can do at this point is speculate.

Did the man, identified as Christopher Corey Moore, 41, have some grievance with police?

Was mental illness a factor?

And why commit the crime, which obviously involved some degree of forethought (he brought with him a fire accelerant), in the middle of the day instead of the cover of night?

We do know that Moore had had a previous run-in with police. He was convicted in 2015 of assaulting an officer, but James said Moore had not been viewed as a potential threat to officers.

And we know that the veteran officer who initially was attacked, J.M. Chavez, was treated at a local hospital and released.

As is routine when a police shooting occurs, the State Bureau of Investigation will conduct an inquiry.

Meanwhile, you would think what happened was an anomaly, but it wasn’t.

In June, a man fired shots at a police substation in Winston-Salem before he was injured in a shootout following a chase. Authorities later found the bodies of his mother and grandmother, and charged him with murder.

In November 2020, one man was killed and two were injured in a shooting outside the Guilford County Courthouse, within a few dozen steps of the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office and Greensboro police headquarters.

“This is absolutely insane and I am very concerned about it,” James said in November. “To have a shooting in broad daylight like this in the middle of downtown — a heavily populated area, people going to court, people going to work, people just trying to live.”

In the more recent shooting, the chief was just as incredulous.

But in this case, the people going to work were police officers.

So James said Greensboro police are considering new security measures, possibly including fencing around the headquarters parking lot. Assistant City Manager Trey Davis, who oversees the police department, told the City Council last week that the city and county already had been working on a security plan after several shooting incidents in and around Governmental Plaza downtown.

The city also will hire a consultant to enhance security at the Melvin Municipal Office Building.

If nothing else, the incidents make unsettlingly clear not only the extent of the violence that has recently wracked the city but the sheer brazenness of it as well. Are these people really that dumb or they do they simply not care?

As for the officers, it is yet another challenge in an already dangerous and stressful profession.

We sometimes tend to forget that they don’t wear badges and uniforms 24/7. They are members of this community, with homes and families of their own.

As they perform their duties, the vast majority with honor and compassion, they have our appreciation and our concern.

And our admonition to, please, be careful out there.

END