It has been truly grim to read recent emails I have received concerning the Saratoga Springs School Board election that show little concern for accuracy and even less concern for engaging with people with whom the senders disagree.
An example was the recent email blast that Betty Gallagher sent out to a very large list. I have always admired Betty as a sober and thoughtful person who I would have expected to be meticulous regarding the truth and accuracy of anything that went out over her name. She has been a stalwart soldier in the League of Women Voters for many years. It is indeed a very bad sign of our times that Betty would propagate a rumor that some sort of conspiracy is afoot involving the NRA and the coming School Board elections.
This was her original email:
Sent: Thursday, May 16, 2019 12:22:33 PM
Subject: School Board Election, May 21
Dear Friends – The answer to gun violence in our society is NOT more guns. I will be voting for John Brueggermann, Heather Reynolds and Natalya Lakhtakia on May 21. The NRA is very active in exerting influence in our School Board election. Don’t let them steal it!
Please remember to vote at this important election!
What follows is our exchange:
John To Betty:
What is the basis of your claim that the NRA is somehow involved in the school board elections?
Betty To John:
Web Notes – How the NRA Exerts Influence Beyond Political Contributions
John and Jane – I think it is fairly well accepted that the NRA exerts influence at federal, state and local elections in order to favor gun ownership. This is accomplished through its membership – and at times financially. Do you believe that the NRA has not noticed our election, or that its members are not taking its advice?
I have tried to copy one of my references but am not very good at this. Hope it comes out for you.
John To Betty:
In reading your email it appears that you have no data that documents the involvement of the NRA in the Saratoga Springs School Board election.
The NRA is not known for stealth campaigns. In fact they generate donations by highlighting their war on behalf of gun owners. Their PAC directly contributes to candidates and the PAC also contacts their members urging them to support whatever candidate or cause they are involved in. If history is any indication, if they were involved in this election they would do so loudly and publicly.
As you may know, I am active in shooting sports. I am not a member of the NRA but during this campaign I have talked to people I know who are in the NRA. Most of them actually knew nothing about this election.
In your email you asserted:
“The NRA is very active in exerting influence in our School Board election. Don’t let them steal it!”
In hindsight don’t you think that this statement lacks the care for moderation and accuracy that has traditionally been reflected in your comments on public issues?
Betty To John:
John – The NRA sways elections through the actions of its devout paid membership. Pro-gun. This is undeniable.
So with respect to Betty, yes, the NRA does involve itself in elections but no, it is not undeniable that they are operating behind the scenes in our local election. What happened to the importance of having some kind of proof when making allegations? Betty has no copies of emails from the NRA to its members, and there is no record of the NRA making any contribution to Saratoga Parents For Safer Schools (SPSS) or any of the candidates. As I noted in my email to her, I have spoken to people who are proud members of the NRA and most of them knew nothing at all about the school board elections including who was running. The few who told me they knew something about the election learned about it in the newspaper or TV. Am I to believe that the friends I shoot with, who are never reluctant to share their right wing views with me, are suddenly trying to keep this great NRA conspiracy Betty thinks exists a secret?
In reading the thread of emails it was apparent that her rumor had found fertile ground. The fact that she and the others participating in this email thread would uncritically spread this rumor is very disturbing.
Betty’s email blast resulted in a cascade of emails from her very extensive list in which the authors approved each other’s choice of candidates and congratulated each other on their wisdom in making these choices. Some like the following took the NRA conspiracy myth even further:
“i agree with you totally, betty. it is definitely my intention to vote for these 3 people. my other concern re the nra is that once they get their foot in our doors, it will be very difficult to get it out. it’s not just this election but the meetings and issues to follow never mind future elections. i hate to be such a down dora, but i don’t trust either them or their adherents at all.”
The exception in these email exchanges was a message sent by Kara Rossetti, the founder of Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools, the group that was formed in support of rearming the school monitors. Ms. Rossetti sent a thoughtful and measured email (see below) in which she refuted the NRA allegation and went on to explain why she supported re-arming the monitors.
This had no impact on the continuing cascade of emails. No one addressed her points. Instead the writers continued to perpetuate the NRA myth as did this writer:
“Betty, You go girl. We’re right there with you on those 3 candidates. You’re probably right on the NRA, we have said that from the start. Please circulate this widely.”
Rather than speaking to Kara’s denial of NRA involvement, Laura Chodos responded to Kara by cavalierly dismissing the importance of whether or not the NRA was involved. Ms. Chodus seemed utterly disinterested in whether this email thread was amplifying disinformation about the election or in even acknowledging any of the other information Kara offered.
The narrative of these emails is driven by the clear sentiment that by opposing rearming the monitors one is taking a stand against gun violence and somehow standing up for gun control. It is apparent that those participating in this email exchange have adopted the myth, supported by no documentation, that the people who support re-arming the monitors are part of a right wing campaign that also opposes gun control. It explains their lack of interest in actually engaging in the issue of school safety as for them the opposition is dominated by right wingers who cannot be reasoned with.
There seems to also be a troubling underlying fear that our community is under attack and by electing a particular slate of candidates we can hold these forces back.
It will no doubt come as a shock then to the people on Betty’s email list that Kara Rossetti, who organized the Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools, is a strong proponent of gun control. In fact, she told me that in the America she would like to live in, the only people allowed to have guns would be law enforcement officers.
I expect that the people participating in this self congratulating email event have no idea how hurtful it is for someone like Kara to be so gratuitously dismissed by Laura Chodos and to have the organization she founded be repeatedly the subject of unfounded accusations that they are agents of the NRA.
Kara is not alone in both being for gun control and, at the same time, for re-arming the monitors. None of Betty’s email list seem interested in actually finding out whether any of the candidates are even members of the NRA.
Kara Rossetti deserves enormous credit for her courage in advocating both thoughtfully and with considerable courage for what she believes is in the best interest of safety in the Saratoga schools. You may not agree with her approach, but she and Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools deserve to be heard for what they honestly have to say and not be subjected to false accusations.
On May 16, 2019, at 2:18 PM, Kara Rosettie <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on the upcoming election. We are fortunate to live in a community where so many people care so much.
I wanted to take the opportunity to address a few things in your email as well as provide some historical facts regarding this issue. What many in the community do not realize is that the armed protection that was removed from our children this past year was a practice and protocol that had been in place without incident for the past 30 years. The effectiveness of this practice in Saratoga is starting to be mirrored by other districts in NY State and is the recommendation from the Federal Commission report for school safety as well as the Parkland School Commission Report after 17 lives were lost.
To further clarify, this is not an issue of gun control. It is an issue of safety. There has been much rhetoric regarding the “NRA” in regards to this upcoming election. It is simply false. At no time has the NRA been contacted, nor has there been NRA funding or involvement. This grass roots movement has taken flight with the support of local parents, grandparents, teachers and community members who believe in restoring proven and trusted safety and protection to our schools.
The driving force behind any attempt to rearm monitors is simple; response time. On average it takes 7.7 minutes for law enforcement to respond to Saratoga City Schools, longer for schools on the outskirts like Greenfield. The majority of school shootings are over within 4-8 minutes.
Seconds save lives.
The only way to mitigate response time is to have law enforcement and armed monitors readily available.
While we believe every candidate is sincere in their efforts to keep our children safe, only Dean Kolligian, Ed Cubanski and Shaun Wiggins recognize that in order to do so we must work closely with local law enforcement and heed their recommendations. Chief John Catone, an expert brought in to address the BOE has repeatedly stated that our children are now “less safe”.
It is now time for our community to heed these words and bring safety measures back to our schools. Our teachers, administrators, staff and children deserve a safe and protected environment and it is our duty to elect those who will provide this.
Thank you again for your dedication to community.
Laura Chodus’ E-mail
Respectfully disagree with you, Kara.
NRA influence or not, the way to peace is not through arms.
The practice you reference was against the law. And NO OTHER district in our region arms their grounds monitors. None.
I have removed from this reply chain the 2
people who requested such.