September 3, 2023

Star-Ledger Editorial Board: It’s not ‘parental rights.’ It’s cynical politics

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In New Jersey, the Star-Ledger Editorial Board has noticed something important about the “parental rights” movement.

Polls have consistently shown that the people most unhappy with our public schools don’t have school-aged kids. Which is telling. The badly named “parents’ rights” movement is the latest lightning rod in our political fights; not necessarily a real, grassroots concern about what’s going on in our classrooms.

A lot of the fights this movement is picking are just plain crazy. The Ramapo Indian Hills school board voted to cut mental health programs for the coming school year, in the midst of a youth mental health crisis, on the grounds that it’s “overreach” – reversing itself only after public outcry. “I fear we are becoming a psychiatric institution at this point,” said Vice President Kim Ansh, who ran on a “parental rights” platform.

Hanover designed a policy to “out” gay students to their parents. Even moderate Westfield got sucked into the drama: Last year, Republican Tom Kean Jr. went on Fox News to falsely accuse its educators of teaching “pornography” to second graders. School board candidates are now going door-to-door in retirement communities making that same wild claim, so brace yourself: The games are just beginning.

This rallying cry of “parental rights” is empty fraud – there’s a cynical political purpose behind all this, a turnout strategy that relies on spreading unfounded fears about public schools. We need to push back against it with the silent majority who have kids in these classrooms and know it has more to do with culture wars than their education.

Groups like Moms for Liberty are again trying to scare voters to the polls in school board and legislative races this November.

Read the full editorial here. 

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