The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Swastikas and ‘witch hunts’: On the front lines of the fluoride wars

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After I posted my history this morning of the fluoride wars, Wonkblog reader Sandra Guerard wrote in with her own experience more than  four decades ago. After reading through the literature on the fluoride battles, hers seems like one of the more extreme fights that has occurred over fluoridating a city's water supply:

In the '60s, I was a teacher in the small CT town of Lisbon, where the fluoride war escalated and finally impacted the school. During that period, opponents of fluoride painted swastikas on the doors of homes of physicians who supported adding fluoride to the water.


The school superintendent, who had made a statement in support of fluoride, soon became the subject of a "witch hunt." Anti-fluoride members of the community hired private detectives to find some "dirt" on the superintendent and were ultimately successful in driving him out of town.


We teachers at the school were "clocked" in and out  of school property by folks sitting in cars across from the school; the custodian was terminated and the teachers became responsible for cleaning their own rooms; as a music teacher, I had public student performances disrupted; teachers were under unbelievable scrutiny for months. One teacher was fired for "inappropriate use of bulletin boards," others were hounded.


At the end of the year, I threw in the towel and quit, as did the majority of teachers at the school.


I was in my early 20s and had only been teaching for a few years. It was a nightmare, but I learned a lot!


It was a good life lesson, albeit one I certainly didn't look for or completely understand at the time, given my youth and being one of the supposed "silent generation." I have never been silent since that experience, but I pick my battles.