Across the country, we are experiencing an attack on public education. Book bans, attacks on teachers, librarians, parents and students, extremists taking over school boards and storming public meetings — it’s a disturbing trend that feels like it’s come out of nowhere.
But here’s the truth: These radical right-wing attacks are far from just activism. These attacks are part of a coordinated, nation-wide effort to make public education in America less inclusive and more discriminatory.
One of the far-right groups behind these attacks, Moms for Liberty, is hosting their second-annual conference right now in Philly. We should all be deeply concerned. Not only has Moms for Liberty pushed to ban books in schools and libraries across the country, but they are actively terrorizing parents, teachers, and worst of all — our children — claiming to do so in the name of “parental rights.” In Charleston, South Carolina, a school board member affiliated with Moms For Liberty said she would show up at her son’s teacher’s doorstep with a gun if the teacher came out as transgender. In Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, police were called to a school board meeting after Moms for Liberty called the attendees “groomers” — bringing a 10-year-old student to tears. Right here in Pennsylvania, a local leader hijacked a dead woman’s Facebook page to harass her enemies, using racial epithets and saying they should hang from a noose.
To be clear, parents are our children’s greatest teachers. But this movement isn’t about parents’ rights at all, it’s about power — and our kids’ collective safety and education are hanging in the balance.
While Moms for Liberty claims to be “politically diverse” and touts their 260 state chapters and 110,000 members as proof of their grassroots nature, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Moms for Liberty has drawn vocal and financial support from far-right politicians, including presidential candidates Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, all of whom have been invited to speak at the Philadelphia summit.
The group also has deep ties with the Republican Party at the state level. In fact, one of the original directors is married to co-chair of the Florida Republican Party, Christian Ziegler, who has openly credited Moms for Liberty for bringing new voters into the party. Moms for Liberty is anything but a grassroots band of moms who just care about their kids. Instead, let’s call it out for what it is: they’re deeply entrenched in a mutually beneficial relationship with the GOP machine.
Even more disturbing than Moms for Liberty’s ties to far-right politicians, are its alliances with white nationalist hate groups like Gays Against Groomers, the Christian Family Coalition and Florida Fathers for Freedom. In Florida and elsewhere, these groups have banded together, hosting rallies against LGBTQ+ rights, and spreading hateful and homophobic rhetoric at school board meetings. Just this month, the Southern Poverty Law Center designated Moms for Liberty as an “extremist group,” a title also reserved for the Westboro Baptist Church, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the Oath Keepers.
This kind of hate is beyond harmful, and not just to our LGBTQ+ kids or Black and brown kids, but to all of our kids. White-washing our history and refusing to recognize our kids for who they are, is not only a detriment to their education and their ability to think critically, but has massive impacts on their mental health.
Fighting back against these attacks requires all of us, banding together in solidarity. The good news is that there are organizations like the Greater Than Hate Coalition, fighting back against extremists and working hard to make sure that all our kids are loved, cared for, and in schools where they are encouraged to learn and grow.
So today, we urge you – find a real group here in Pennsylvania, get involved, and get organized — let’s show our kids that hate has no home here in Philly.
Kelley Robinson is the President of the Human Rights Campaign and a founder of the Greater Than Hate Coalition.
Fatima Goss Graves is President of the National Women’s Law Center Action Fund and a founder of the Greater Than Hate Coalition.