My family and I have lived in Bucks County for over 13 years. One of the main reasons we moved here was because of the excellent reputation of CBSD schools. We have not been disappointed!
Of course there were minor issues that arose periodically, but until the pandemic, our experiences at Central Bucks were largely positive. My kids benefited from warm nurturing school environments, wonderful teachers, and buses we could count on to bring them to and from school. When my kids left in the morning, I felt confident that they were going to a good place, a place that supported both their mental health and their academic success.
But, something changed during the pandemic. Something even more fundamental than the learning loss and mental health issues that the entire world faced. The very character of Central Bucks shifted when the leadership changed in 2021. Today in CBSD, the schools feel cold and sterile, many of the best teachers are leaving, and buses often don’t even arrive to pick up our students in the morning.
It couldn’t simply be an issue of partisan politics because, at least during the 13 years that we’ve lived here, Central Bucks School Board has always had a Republican majority and consistently maintained an excellent reputation.
So, what changed? Why are we suddenly making national news for the chaos and dysfunction of our Board leadership? Why are we wasting millions of dollars on expensive lawyers and exorbitant superintendent raises? Why are we being investigated by the Federal Department of Education for discrimination?
What I’ve been realizing recently is that the breakdown we’ve seen in CBSD is not about party affiliation … it’s about something much bigger. Something that hurts every one of us, regardless of political party. Extremism.
The particular extremism we’re facing in CBSD was brought to us by local MAGA multi-millionaire Paul Martino and his Moms for Liberty affiliated candidates during the 2021 election.
Moms for Liberty is an extremist group founded in 2021 that has quickly ballooned to over 285 chapters in 45 states. They have left a trail of destruction in every community they’ve managed to infiltrate. Contrary to their desire to be portrayed as a grassroots organization, M4L is actually funded by right-wing billionaires in order to foster distrust in public education and promote far-right, conservative indoctrination.
There are examples of M4L abuses in almost every one of the communities they’ve been part of. In Monroe County, PA, the M4L chairperson was arrested on a “summary charge of harassment” after allegedly repeatedly harassing an individual with messages. The head of communications of the Lonoke County, Arkansas, chapter threatened gun violence against librarians. The chapter chair of the Livingston County, Michigan, chapter allegedly led a harassment campaign against a community advocate and was issued a restraining order. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, Moms for Liberty members harassed an opposing group and threatened to report them for child abuse and called them “pedophile sympathizers.” Moms for Liberty harassment at a school board meeting in Wauwatosa County, Wisconsin, prompted police presence. A Moms for Liberty-affiliated school board member in Charleston, South Carolina, said he would show up at an educator’s doorstep with a gun if his child’s teacher came out as transgender.
The list goes on and on…
Moms For Liberty does not even try to shy away from their aggressive reputation. In fact, they seem downright proud of it. Their official Twitter account recently shared a meme of a mama bear wearing a Moms for Liberty T-shirt, covered in blood and surrounded by what appears to be dead LGBTQ children.
Our local Districts have experienced similar harm from M4L. In CBSD, the Moms for Liberty school board directors have quoted Hitler, targeted teachers who support LGBTQ students, and secretly enlisted the anti-LGBTQ Independence Law Center to write discriminatory policies and book bans. Bucks County Moms for Liberty chapter leaders who believe they are fighting a “a battle of good and evil” have accused public schools of “grooming” kids and that “they’re now making it where pedophilia is OK.” They even want to ban the Kurt Vonnegut classic Slaughterhouse-Five.
In Pennridge, Moms For Liberty school board directors chose to become the first school board in the entire country to hire inexperienced Jordan Adams and his Vermilion Education consultancy company. Adams is a Hillsdale College graduate who was brought in to give the public school curriculum a right-wing makeover – and for a hefty price. He also helped usher in the use of Hillsdale 1776 for the district’s 9th grade social studies, a curriculum based on Donald Trump’s controversial and widely panned 1776 Project, which is largely a jingoistic, nationalist revisionist history that prioritizes patriotism over accuracy.
As the election gets closer, Martino (who is funding the entire CB Forward Slate) has been employing more and more M4L tactics. For example, this past week, he made social media postings encouraging community members to act as vigilantes and dox and target a community member on X who made posts he found personally offensive. He offered a reward of $1,000 to anyone who could reveal their identity, which potentially put all outspoken local Democrats at risk.
This is exactly the kind of aggressive strategy used by M4L members across the country.
If Aarati Martino is elected, will Martino send vigilantes after every person who disagrees with her policies?
Later in the week, Martino made an X post stating:
“Ironic that you post such nonsense as you are the one that wants to tell ME how to raise my kids. I am the adult in the room here. You should be embarrassed that that role falls to me because you have abdicated your responsibility. As have all of you on the left.”
Again, Martino is not unique in believing he has the moral authority to be in charge. This is the guiding principle behind Moms for Liberty and other extremist groups. If we allow them to continue to infiltrate our schools, we will undoubtedly see more of the same dysfunction that has dominated CBSD since M4L directors took power in 2021.
Although immense damage has already been done in our community, it is not too late to step back from the brink of extremism. On November 7, voters will have the opportunity to choose five new school board directors. We only have to look to other districts where Moms for Liberty has taken over to see what’s next if the CB Forward candidates win. There will undoubtedly be an escalation of the chaos we’ve already seen: more discriminatory policies and financial waste, more aggression and targeting of vulnerable community members, more dysfunctional school board meetings and deeply problematic curriculum changes.
The good news is that CBSD voters are already rejecting the extremism and aggression promoted by M4L. The Democratic school board candidates all took the lead in the primaries. In Region 6, Rick Haring earned 35 percent of the Republican vote, a number that is almost unheard of in today’s political climate.
As election day nears, Paul Martino and his new slate of Moms for Liberty candidates are following familiar patterns. They are using duplicitous tactics like creating fake phone surveys to spread disinformation, spreading false and dangerous narratives about the candidates and their families, and continuing online harassment of the entire Neighbors United slate.
Their objective is not just to win, it’s to destroy lives. In fact, the consultant from the PAC supporting the Central Bucks Forward candidates has publicly stated that his goal is to make it so each of the Neighbors United Candidates “will be ashamed to be seen in public.”
What is happening in our district is not a partisan divide. It is not about what’s best for our children or our schools. It is extremism and it is deeply damaging our community.
Republicans and Democrats alike rejected Moms for Liberty extremism in May. I’m confident we’ll do it again in November. Our kids are counting on us.
To learn more about the Central Bucks School District Neighbors United for School Board visit: https://www.cbsdneighborsunited.com/