Tim Craig: Moms for Liberty has turned ‘parental rights’ into a rallying cry for conservative parents
Tim Craig at the Washington Post looks at what might be the real, final form of what started out as critical race theory protests–a drive for conservative parents (and non-parents) demanding control of their local schools.
Hand’s anger offers a window into Moms for Liberty, a controversial organization looking to play a major role in next year’s elections. Launched initially in Brevard County to support “parental rights” in public schools, Moms for Liberty chapters have spread nationwide. Its leaders hope to convert brawlish pandemic-era cultural divisions into lasting political power.
The organization is channeling a powerful frustration among conservative mothers, who feel increasingly sidelined by school administrators and teachers. And their targets are sprawling — not only mask mandates but also curriculums that touch on LGTBQ rights, race and discrimination, and even the way schools define a scientific fact.
A Moms for Liberty chapter in Tennessee questioned whether a textbook that included a photograph of two sea horses mating was too risque for elementary schools. Members in Suffolk County, N.Y., have begun describing school mask policies as “segregation,” urging their children to rip off their masks in classrooms in protest.
And in Indian River County, Fla., a chapter recently objected to fourth-graders being taught how to spell “spinal tap,” “isolation” and “quarantine” because they were too “scary of words” to teach at that grade level, said Jennifer Pippin, head of the Indian River chapter.
In 10 months, Moms for Liberty has grown to 135 chapters in 35 states, with 56,000 members and supporters, according to the organization’s founders. The group hopes to one day have chapters in all 3,143 counties or equivalents in the United States.
“Now is the time to capture these parents for the long-term,” said Tina Descovich, a co-founder of Moms for Liberty. “If you miss this opportunity, when they are really engaged [during the pandemic], it’s going to be hard to engage them in the future.”
But the group’s critics warn that Moms for Liberty has sowed divisions among parents and made it harder for school officials to educate students while keeping them safe.