Red, Wine & Blue’s Jill Jonassen and Kim Barbaro invited Pennridge parents Laura Foster and Adrienne King, organizers of Ridge Network, to discuss the far-right agenda being implemented in the Pennridge school district during a broadcast on Wednesday.
In addition to recently implemented policies that violate the civil rights of students, the board also voted 5-4 to execute a contract with Vermilion Education, a months-old consulting company having direct ties to Hillsdale College, to review and revise the district’s curriculum.
Vermilion founder Jordan Adams had provided a presentation at the June school board meeting that fell flat and in some aspects strayed from reality.
“Some of the things happening are just so extreme,” said King, who has children in the school district. “We’re now starting to see where our school board decisions, the policies that they’re making, are actually impacting the students, the environment, the schools, the teachers, the administration.”
King also believes that Pennridge is being utilized as a state and national model by ultra-conservatives within the Republican party to further their agenda to destroy public education.
“This is lining up to impact so many children,” said Pennridge parent Laura Foster referring to new policies adopted by the board that discriminate against LGBTQ+ youth.
“You can listen to any Pennridge school board meeting and hear parents talk about the difficulties that their kids have been facing and our board has no interest in acknowledging that or holding a space of safeness or love for these kids.”
Foster said she believes Vermilion and Hillsdale are building out a platform to incorporate their Christian fundamentalist beliefs that translate to homophobia and racism.
“When you look at the book baiting, you’ve got to look at Moms For Liberty because Moms For Liberty will put out lists of books to ban, and guess what books are banned in Pennridge,” Foster asked. “The same ones.”
Foster also said that she worries for the mental health of students due to the elimination of these library resources.
“This is a national dialog. These are national issues that they are kind of coming into school boards to limit the education of our children,” she added.
Kim Barbaro, Deputy Program Director for Red, Wine & Blue helped facilitate the broadcast with Ridge Network by pitching the idea to story producer Jill Jonassen who moderated the discussion.
“I really just wanted Laura and Adrienne to help shine a light on what’s happening there because it will be expanding out through the state,” Barbaro said. I hear every day how the folks out in western PA look towards these eastern schools as models for how they want to implement some of their extremist agenda.”
The Ridge, a group of parents, students and community members, works to shine a light on concerns and issues that affect students and teachers in the Pennridge School District.
Red, Wine & Blue is a not-for-profit advocacy group working to empower suburban women at the grassroots level to organize for a variety of issues that promote democracy, including public education.