The Southern Poverty Law Center has issued its “Year in Hate and Extremism” report for 2022, and some familiar names from the world of “parental rights” are on the list. It’s some kind of new world when activism in the public education space can get you this kind of attention.
SPLC frames the rise of these groups as a “reemergence of the attack on inclusive schools” and position the current culture war panic in the long history of such panics.The attacks following the Brown decision were not the beginning of the so-called parental rights movement, and it certainly was not the end. Going back to the 1920s, the U.S. has witnessed ebbs and flows of white, cisgender, heterosexual groups battling public education.
Regardless of the time period, most attacks against public education have been reactionary and rooted in racism, from the fight against integration after Brown v. Board, to the so-called school choice movement, to the latest attacks on inclusive education.
Segregationist parents did not relent and side-stepped Brown v. Board through self-titled “school choice” that made it possible for parents who were allowed to maintain their racist values by sending their children to private Christian academies. Some 3,500 white, racially discriminatory church-based schools sprung up in the wake of Brown v Board. However, when the tax-exempt status of these “segregation academies” were revoked by the court in 1971 and then upheld by former President Jimmy Carter’s IRS, parents claimed government infringement and violation of their parental rights to make decisions about their children’s education.
This was not the first or last time claims of government overreach would be used as a protestation by these groups. It has become a common theme in iterations of anti-student inclusion groups over the decades.
SPLC says that 2022 saw the filing of 84 “anti-student inclusion bills“
Moms for Liberty
This is the inclusion that made headlines, and the report gets into some detail with the group’s activities, noting “Like the mothers of massive resistance before them, Moms for Liberty is ready to fight tooth and nail to preserve the unseen but understood caste system existing in their public schools and communities.”
Moms for America
M4A could have been M4L– after all, they’ve been around for almost twenty years without ever getting quite the traction that M4L got within weeks. They do have some star power attached, like Kevin Sorbo’s wife and Rebecca Fredrichs. But they don’t quite draw the press attention for their full-throated opposition to “CRT”. They helped support the Stop The Steal rally on January 6, and they hang out at CPAC. Their last high-profile action was–well, remember the People’s Convoy that was going to circle DC and really show somebody something? M4A had a purple truck in that.
Army of Parents
Army of Parents is based in Loudon County, VA, which has been the hot spot for lots of school controversy (that’s the place where the bathroom sexual assault was misrepresented as a transgender issue and not handled particularly well by the district). Elicia Brans, a co-founder who was activated by COVID concerns (no masks, open schools), has charged Loudon Love Warriors with threatening her. Co-founder Erin Roselle Poe told The Federalist “We’ve got to get the evil out of the schools.”
Courage is a Habit
“Actionable tools & strategies for parents to defend their children from indoctrination in K-12.” This group will help you “win the war against indoctrination.” Their website warns about critical race theorists and “child mutilation advocates,” as well as SEL, school counselors, and vulgar books. The group is headed by Alvin Lui, a “political refugee from California” who hangs out with the Parents Defending Education crowd and does plenty of media..
Education First Alliance
North Carolina group that set up a whistleblower program to “help fight woke indoctrination.” President Sloan Rachmuth is an “entrepreneur-turned-journalist and activist“–she’s also a coms professional. Anti-indoctrination, anti-naughty books, anti-trans. Rachmuth also heads Pen and Shield, a nonprofit newsroom.
“Education NOT Indoctrination.” Atlanta-based group opposing “obsession with race, equity over merit, unpatriotic attitudes, hyper-sexualization” in pursuit of “pure, non-political education.” Also, “teach history, not hate.” Don’t want “Anti-white CRT” or “sexual orientation nonsense.” They appear to be aimed at private schools in particular. Links to explainers from Prager U. It’s not really clear what they’ve done or who they are.
No Left Turn In Education
Launched by Elena Fishbein, a doctor of social work from Gladwyne, one of the uber-rich Philadelphia suburbs who got upset when her child’s school adopted some culturally sensitive programming in the wake of the George Floyd murder. They’ve been linked to violent school board protests and toxic rhetoric and hollered loudly when the Department of Justice suggested school board opponents might want to tone it down a bit. “Black bigotry towards whites” is a “very real problem,” she said. You can see lots more of their rhetoric here.
Parents Against Critical Theory (PACT)
More from Loudon County. Led by Scott Mineo, Third Way studied the group and found “inflammatory tone” and made up baloney, QAnon style.
Mineo also claimed in the press and on his website that teaching CRT is explicitly “anti-white,” that CRT is “poison,” and that the CRT “lifecycle” is “infiltration, transformation, and indoctrination.”
They were very busy in the election that got Virginia Youngkin as a governor.
Parents Defending Education
Parents Rights In Education
Against “destructive polarization.” Concerned about “viewpoint discrimination, comprehensive sexuality education, radical gender ideology” etc. The head honcho is Suzanne Gallagher, a previous chair of the Oregon GOP (who was forced to step down) and “sales and marketing expert.” Worried about sexual indoctrination in schools, including the claim that teachers are using porn as a teaching aid.
Purple for Parents Indiana
In Indiana, Purple for Parents is Jennifer McWilliams, a former teachers aid who quit over SEL programming and went on the right wing victim circuit (I have her story here). The Purples started in Arizona as a response to Red for Ed and as an offshoot of a Patriot group. They’ve also cropped up in North Carolina. Meanwhile, the main group’s Facebook page wants you to know that June is “Groomer Awareness Month.”
Parents Involved in Education
Founded in 2000 as a South Carolina group, now gone national, this is one of the older groups. Their mission: “to end the U.S. Department of Education and all federal education mandates.” (“Parental rights come from God–not the government.) With an advisory board that includes Sandra Stotsky, Joy Pullman, Michelle Malkin, and Christel Swasey, these folks are heavily anti-Common Core. Sheri Few, the head honcho, ran for Congress in 2017 with what The Root called “a series of ads that might be the most racist, homophobic and craziest campaign ever.” She’s also a producer of their film, “Truth and Lies in American Education” which is aimed at the more current panics like America and racism, gender stuff, and the fear that public schools are teaching socialism. Agenda 21!! Special appearance by Kevin Sorbo’s wife! It’s the true story of young mother April Few, who is converted from skepticism about the Big Plot. She is Sheri Few’s daughter-in-law.
That’s the list.
We could ask why these and not some others (why, in particular, only the Indiana wing of Purple for Parents). There’s a wide range here, from well-financed full size groups to what appear to be one or two-person operations, from experienced comms professionals to amateur goofballs.
But they all have a few things in common, like a long twisty path of interlocking connections with each other and other groups. But mostly they all share a powerful desire to recapture schools for parents–but only certain right kinds of parents. And they now each have a spot on the SPLC map.
This was originally published at the progressive education blog Curmudgucation.