It Takes a Village: Expelling Right-Wing Extremism from Bucks County School Districts

What we are seeing today in Central Bucks School District is just the latest chapter in the history of the right’s long war against public education – and progress in general.
Central Bucks School District students practice joyful resistance to Policy 321 Friday outside of CB West High School. Photo by Kevin Crawford Imagery.

Chaya Raichik, the Libs of Tik Tok Twitter hate propagandist, recently gave an enlightening interview on Tucker Carlson Today which provides a lot of insight into what we are seeing happening with local school boards, including in the Central Bucks School District. 

“The LGBTQ community has become this cult and it’s so captivating, and it pulls people in so strongly, unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” Raichik told Fox News host Carlson. “And they brainwash people to join and they convince them of all of these things, and it’s really, really hard to get out of it.” 

She wasn’t done talking about a group of people she described as “extremely poisonous.”

READ: Central Bucks School District’s Cruelty Toward LGBTQ+ Students May Finally Get The Scrutiny It Deserves

“I think sometimes, the simplest answer is they’re just evil,” she added. “They’re bad people. They’re just evil people and they want to groom kids. They’re recruiting.”

It is not surprising, to me at least, that Raichik’s viral anti-LGBTQ social media account is so popular among the Bucks County right-wing school board/Moms for Liberty mob attacking diversity, acceptance, progress, and education in school districts – and within society. They share her posts and echo her language. Never mind not one person within this mob, to my knowledge, has condemned her hateful and bigoted remarks. 

Not one. And they are still sharing and amplifying her. 

Raichik said the quiet part out loud. But if you are really, really listening, so has the right-wing Central Bucks School District school board. 

Take for example the school board’s response to the ACLU’s federal discrimination complaint against the district being run by Superintendent Dr. Abe Lucabaugh, alleging a “toxic educational environment for LGBQ&T students that has been exacerbated by homophobic and transphobic actions and policies recently taken by the school board and upper-level administrators.” The complaint is currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights

The right-wing board majority’s answer was to hire attorney William McSwain, a failed 2022 GOP gubernatorial candidate to investigate the ACLU’s complaint – a Republican who attacked West Chester Area School District’s Fugett Middle School’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance student club as “leftist political indoctrination.” He ended up losing to Christian Nationalist State Senator Doug Mastriano, who accused teachers of showing kids porn and often promoted QAnon on Twitter

McSwain’s role is obviously to rewrite history and tell the right-wing board what they want to hear. And his hiring helps make the ACLU’s argument.

“Not only do we have a school district that fails to protect and support these kids, but now they’re taking all sorts of actions to basically say, there’s something wrong with you … we can’t have your books. We can’t have anybody showing support for you. We’re not even going to honor you by using your name or your pronoun,” ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Director Witold Walczak told the Bucks County Beacon.   

It doesn’t stop there. 

The Central Bucks School District wants to remove four LGBTQ books from its libraries, as WHYY reporter Emily Rizzo reported. In the months leading up to its new library policy, the right-wing school board members’ public surrogates insisted LGBTQ books amounted to “grooming.” What’s more, as USA Today Network reporter Chris Ullery uncovered, they outsourced the crafting of the administrative regulations for library policy 109.2 to the Independence Law Center, a firm affiliated with anti-LGBTQ Christian organization Pennsylvania Family Institute

Superintendent Lucabaugh in a statement sent to WHYY said “no books have been challenged, nor has any book been removed from a library” even though a leaked email that was sent to district librarians and provided to the news organization says otherwise. “We have five book challenges and will need to form reconsideration committees for each of the books,” the email states, which Lucabaugh apparently didn’t know they had. Oops. 

Why would Superintendent Lucabaugh lie, not only to WHYY, but to district parents? 

Maybe for the same reason that he and the right-wing school board lied to parents when they sent a district-wide email to preempt Ullery’s story stating that they chose the “Independence Law Firm” – it’s actually “Independence Law Center” – to review the administrative regulations for 109.2, but left out its association with the right-wing religious organization “designated as an extremist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center,” as WHYY’s Emily Rizzo pointed out. 

The devil’s in the details which is why those details were left out – and that’s a lie of omission. And they lied because of course parents would have problems with this. 

Then last week, another controversy and another lie?

Central Bucks South High School librarian Matt Pecic was told to take down a quote from Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, that says: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” After outrage and media scrutiny the district reversed course and had their $15,000/month PR firm release a statement suggesting that Pecic was advised “to present the quote in conjunction with Mr. Wiesel’s book in order to promote educational inquiry and student interest in reading the novel, or to take it down. We regret that the decision was made to remove it.” This turned out to be an impossible request – if that’s even true – because the quote is not from one of Wiesel’s books, it is from a speech he made when accepting his Nobel prize. 

This is a result of the school district’s newly passed Policy 321 in action, which seeks so-called neutrality because the right-wing school board thinks that teachers are “indoctrinating” students. In their paranoid conspiratorial minds, teachers are trying to force students to not be like them – not grow up to become MAGA adults who get their news from Libs of Tik Tok, Tucker Carlson, OANN news, and Facebook memes. So tear down those LGBTQ flags, ban those library books, remove those quotes, and don’t teach history properly because the right wing in the country has often been on the wrong side of it.

What also should give people pause is the reaction by the Moms for Liberty mob to journalism. One M4L activist and rising star of the Bucks County Republican Party’s “grassroots” posted a photo of a local journalist in her car, while also accusing another journalist of wanting to show students porn. 

This can be interpreted as threatening, intimidation, and an incitement of violence because if someone actually believed that the USA Today Network reporter really wanted to expose their kids to porn what would they be willing to do?

Now might be a good time for Central Bucks School District history teachers to develop lesson plans on the right wing’s long war against public education (Sadly, I am certain this would be censored because of Policy 321). They could start in the 1920s, when the KKK took up the cause of “education reform” so that the Klan’s defined patriotism and religious values would guide education. “One Flag, One School, One Bible” was the banner one Klan chapter marched under in a parade, while Klansmen and Klans-moms “donated flags and Bibles to their local public schools.”

READ: Parental rights — and wrongs — in public education

The 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial is another page in this history. Thanks to a brave teacher who engaged in civil disobedience and taught Darwinism despite breaking the law in Tennessee at the time, public school science teachers can actually teach science rather than Christianity and “Divine Creation.”

In the 1930s conservative groups like the Daughters of the American Revolution, businessmen from groups like the Chamber of Commerce, and of course some in the media attacked a series of social studies text books by Dr. Harold Rugg for being communist. They weren’t, of course. They did teach history – which in and of itself has apparently always been a subversive act. 

Moving forward in the 1950s there is the story of a renowned California school district superintendent Willard E. Goslin, who was attacked by a small, but of course loud group of local conservatives for “his ‘ideological’ support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), his inclusion of sex education in the curriculum, his concern for African Americans, and his advocacy of racial integration of the schools.”

I could go on, and on, but I don’t want to write a book. You get the picture. What we are seeing today in Central Bucks School District is just the latest chapter in the history of the right’s long war against public education – and progress in general. The local Moms for Liberty Chapter, which is rounding the troops to fight Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) next (you can read the national group’s dimwitted report here), is part of this history. Why are they against SEL? Because it is “critical race theory” of course. Christopher Rufo’s plan worked. One mom on the local chapter’s Facebook page even raised concerns about the “critical literature” course her son is taking. Why? Who knows? But the word critical is in the course title so it must be part of some Marxist plot hatched by the United Nations.  

The good news is that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” as Martin Luther King Jr. once remarked. And really, that is why we are seeing this conservative backlash against justice, against progress, against diversity, and against acceptance by right-wing activists in places like Central Bucks School District. 

I spoke to Education Voters PA Executive Director Susan Spicka last month. She has a good idea. 

“I think what will be most powerful is being able to take people who are fighting the fight [against extremism] and connecting them to each other so that they are able to learn from people who’ve been able to successfully push back against it in a different district,” she told me.

Spicka is speaking at a virtual event tonight called “School Boards and the Rise of Extremism” which you can register for.

“Organizing is contesting for power at the individual and group level. And our opposition, the right wing, is contesting for power. Let’s not get it twisted,” said Joseph Phelan, Co-Founder and Executive Director of ReFrame. “We are not organizing on an even playing field, where we’re just trying to create a better world of a world that exists and there’s no one in control. There is an organized opposition that is trying to destroy us on the battlefield of ideas, the battlefield of politics, and the battlefield of the economy. And so, when we think about this, we have to think about how we are in a contest for power.”

Amazing organizing is already happening on the ground in Central Bucks. But people need to think about county-wide, and statewide organizing, like Spicka suggested, in order to contest for power. In the meantime, the Bucks County Beacon will continue to shine a light both on the right-wing extremism infecting school districts and the much-needed push back from everyone to the left of the far-right Moms for Liberty mob. 

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Picture of Cyril Mychalejko

Cyril Mychalejko

Cyril Mychalejko is the Editor-in-Chief of the Bucks County Beacon. Read his columns on Sundays and follow him on Twitter.

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