School districts in a number of states, even some surprising ones like California and New Jersey, have taken steps ensure parents are notified of important happenings with their children that occur during the school day. While most of this revolves around gender issues, it isn't the only topic that should be on the radars of parents.
Meg Kilgannon, fellow for education studies at Family Research Council, contends security and safety remain big concerns. Some cities have taken a softer approach to crime in their communities – whether that's not requiring bail or something else – and that's being reflected in some schools, she said on Washington Watch Thursday.
"There's a lot of concern about school discipline policies and whether or not the very progressive kinds of policies that you see like at a district attorney's level or a commonwealth's attorney levels, where there are crimes not being prosecuted. Some of those sensibilities are flowing into the school system, and children who are not behaving in school are not necessarily facing consequences for their actions," she told show host Jody Hice.
Many parents who may have let their children's education run on cruise control got a peek behind the curtain when schools were shut down or faced modified teaching during the pandemic, Kilgannon explained – and many were met with resistance when they asked questions about curriculums that include critical race theory (CRT) or extreme inclusion policies such as biological boys in girls' bathrooms or on girls' sports teams.
In Florida, for example, two moms had seen enough – leading to the formation of Moms for Liberty. Tiffany Justice said she and fellow co-founder Tina Descovich "saw some things in our children's schools that we had some questions about." Both ladies took action.
"We pursued those questions, and it ended up in us running for school boards. We served on separate school boards; we didn't even know each other – but from 2016 to 2020, we were uniquely prepared for COVID when this moment came where you had great overreach of parental rights. Tina and I were sitting on school boards and really fighting and standing for parental rights," Justice shared on American Family Radio Friday morning.
Now Moms for Liberty boasts more than 120,000 members through 300 chapters in 46 states. The group has gained political influence and will be a factor in the 2024 presidential race, The Associated Press predicts.
Not everyone, however, thinks that's a good thing.
Moms gets a place on the SPLC map
The Southern Poverty Law Center soon added Moms for Liberty to the map of what it defines as "hate groups." Moms also caught the attention of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose far-left policies have fueled speculation that he could seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2024. His joy with Moms' addition to the hate map helped increase awareness and support for the group, according to Justice.
"I should probably send Gavin Newsom a thank you note. He liked to blast that all over the Internet, but it only increased our membership and funding – so thank you to all of the donors who have given to us as the SPLC has tried to paint us as a hate group," Justice said.
One of the primary goals for Moms for Liberty has been to encourage concerned parents to get involved with their school boards.
"The SPLC actually said we were an anti-government extremist group, which doesn't make a lot of sense. We're set up by chapter in counties, and we're very effective in these chapters. We endorsed in over 500 school board races in 2022, won over half of those, with 76% of candidates who were endorsed never having run for office before," Justice said.
"You're talking about a huge, new group of people who are getting elected, getting involved in our government process. It doesn't sound that anti-government to me."
Protecting parents' rights and encouraging engagement has also been a goal for House Republicans. In March they passed what sponsors called The Parents Bill of Rights Act, legislation that would have required schools to make library catalogs and curriculums public and to gain parental consent before honoring a student's request to change their gender-identifying pronouns.
The legislation did not pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Five basic rights for school parents
The bill identified five basic rights parents should have: (1) to know what's being taught, (2) to have access to teachers and administrators, (3) to know how money is being spent, (4) to know where money is coming from and the influence that may be required to maintain contributions, and (5) to have their child's privacy protected.
"I don't see how anybody could argue with that," Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) told Hice. "The only good thing that came out of COVID … is how it exposed education at all levels for how bad it is in this country. Republicans wanted to make sure that the public understands we are the champions of education freedom."
Recent efforts in blue states and the willingness of so many parents to seek seats on local school board and to engage are positive signs for parents' rights advocates. But the fight to be heard in many schools needs to continue, Kilgannon said.
"We're really at a crossroads. There are people on the left who believe that they are the education experts, and that once your kid is at the school, once your child walks through the door, they're really in charge," the FRC fellow lamented.
In contrast, Kilgannon added, those on the right "would like to have a little more of a say" about what's happening in the schools.
"We know that our children are gifts from God given to us to make sure that we train them up to know, love and serve Him," she shared.