Source: The Charlotte Observer
In the last decade, dismantling public education has been a rallying point for right-wing organizations and Republicans across the country. In recent years, extremist groups have set up shop in hundreds of school districts in the U.S. – pushing the wave of book bans, erasure of school curriculum, and measures targeting Black and LGBTQ+ students.
In North Carolina, a group of parents is pushing back against these extremist and discriminatory efforts, creating a network of parents who are focused on improving public education in the state.
“We started this movement with sheer determination and ongoing commitment,” Stacy Staggs, a member of Public School Strong, told The Charlotte Observer. “We’ve already been engaged for years in our children’s schools and with their educators. As more attention is given to the inner workings of public education, our efforts and presence will continue to be highlighted.”
Public School Strong launched back in May with over 30 other teams across the state. Their goal is to get parents, students, teachers, and community members involved at school board meetings in all 100 of North Carolina’s counties, according to the group’s site.
The focus on getting involved at school board meetings, comes at a time when extremist groups, such as Moms for Liberty, have been the loudest in the room.
Members of Moms for Liberty have been linked to local pushes for book bans and challenges in numerous school districts, including New Hanover’s latest book removal.
“We can see a clear timeline of telegraphed and manufactured issues, from boogeymen of CRT, ‘COVID as a hoax’, anti-masking efforts, to excerpts from books they mistakenly claim to be pornography and hostility against LGBTQ students and staff,” Staggs stated. “All the while, real-world concerns like honest and accurate education, literacy and life skills, partnering with staff in the buildings and focusing on improving student outcomes across our district are where the real work is happening.”
According to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Moms for Liberty is one of the largest groups to advance an anti-student inclusion agenda, and has put it and similar organizations on its list of anti-government extremist entities.
The Southern Poverty Law Center report compares the right-wing group and other anti-education parent groups to those that attempted to re-segregate public schools during the civil rights movement.
“What we’ve been watching really closely around this particular group… [are] times when they show up with other groups that have explicitly advocated or committed intimidations and violence,” Shannon Hiller, executive director of the Bridging Divides Initiative (BDI) at Princeton University, told NPR. “There are cases at school boards in North Carolina, for example, where Moms for Liberty showed up together with Proud Boys and were part of intimidating the school board.”
“Their organizing is quite concerning for how it harms communities, but also because of the associations with other hard right groups that they’ve really had since their inception,” Hiller added.