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"They're not rational": 80-Year-Old Educator Speaks About Her Arrest in “Moral Monday Protests” Against Extreme Right-Wing Agenda in North Carolina

A senior citizen endures an ordeal to protect equality and quality in the public school system.

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Jessica Ferrer: When you heard about Moral Monday, what made you want to be a part of that?

Barbara Parramore: Well, having come to Raleigh in 1954 to teach, and that was the year that the Brown vs Board of Education decision was made in May, and then so my license to practice in education began when there were a lot of changes underway in education. And then when I was a school principal, the first school for special education students serving the whole city was at my school and the teacher’s salary was paid by the Woman’s Club, Senior Woman’s Club. So I’ve always been involved with activities sort of pushing ahead on what needs to be done, and also emphasis on the least among us. I’ve always been involved in education for the goals that we have that all children have an opportunity for a quality education. Now I keep up with the legislature when it’s in town and pay a lot of attention to public policy as well as laws, and so I’ve been concerned, ever since the General Assembly began working this spring, with the kinds of things they were considering and some of the laws they passed and then some that are proposed. I just believe strongly that we’re turning the hands back on the clock.

Jessica Ferrer: But you were arrested for civil disobedience.

Barbara Parramore: Yes. Yes.

Jessica Ferrer: Can you explain that?

Barbara Parramore: Well, I realized that was a possibility, and I’ve known some of the – like the first publication of arrests showed the picture of Bill Chafe from Duke University, who’s a retired history professor, and I knew him, and I thought well he’s paying attention to this, I need to pay even more attention. So I was willing to be subject to arrest. However, I do believe that I have a right to go into the legislative building and in the center part where we went. Now I know you can’t go into the chambers. So I think there’s a Constitutional question, the North Carolina Constitution, whether or not that we were really trespassing. And I made a pledge to myself when I went in that I would not sing or chant or say anything, so I never said a word during the whole time, although others were doing that, and some people were making talks after the Reverend Barber made a talk, like the economics professor from Chapel Hill spoke, a woman on the school board in Durham School spoke, a girl who just graduated from college spoke, and two others. But I never said a word. So in my own way I was doing a silent protest, although I was a member of that group. So I feel that if people like me with my background and experience and commitment to education don’t stand up, then who’s going to?

Jessica Ferrer: And you said that you believed that the legislature is moving backwards.

Barbara Parramore: Some of the laws are – well, there’s no need to have a separate law for the teaching of the multiplication tables and cursive writing. That’s up to the school board that’s appointed by the governor, and the superintendent of public instruction is elected by the people. That’s where policy for curriculum development should occur, and I just think that’s just a narrow-minded approach to checking on what’s taught in schools. There have been other laws in the past that I’ve objected to that were very specific, targeted at some special interest. For example, we had more liberal or responsible approaches to health education in the high schools and home economics, and there was a period when there was a lot of activity and the teachers were forbidden by law to mention anything about family planning or birth control, and I’ve forgotten how many years it was finally repealed, but again that was denying knowledge and information to young, you know, teenagers who certainly have a right to, you know, knowledge and facts. So that’s just an example of the legislature trying to be the super school board. There’s just a lot of things that seems to me are going to short- change the children in the long run.