Democrats won big across the Delaware Valley in last Tuesday’s election. It was clear that abortion rights and, to some degree, possible challenges to the 2024 presidential election carried the day. After the election, Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman, reportedly said Dobbs and democracy won the 2023 election, and those issues will carry Democrats to victory in 2024.
Dobbs is a reference to the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overruled Roe v. Wade and sent abortion rights battles back to the states. Democracy is a reference to President Donald Trump and the challenges he raised about the 2020 election results.
But I don’t think that Dobbs or democracy gave us the Democrats’ victory in the Central Bucks School Board elections. I think the unrelenting and false attacks by The Philadelphia Inquirer and WHYY demonized people like school board President Dana Hunter and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Abraham M. Lucabaugh.
The theme of both news outlets was that Lucabaugh, Hunter, and other Republican board members were on wholesale book-banning campaigns and were callous or biased toward students who were gay or transgender.
In my view, this coverage was so intense because the district is one of the biggest, wealthiest, and most educated in the entire state. It also had a fairly conservative board elected after bitter battles about masking and school closures during the COVID crisis.
I think the election of that conservative school board was a message that citizens in Central Bucks thought the previous COVID policies were too restrictive. And the demotion of Dr. David Damsker, Bucks public health chief, at the behest of the Wolf administration and carried out by the Bucks County commissioners also created a backlash.
Damsker had gained a large following across the state as he advocated loosening masking restrictions and early return of students to school even if they had previously had a fever.
The next firestorm for that board involved whether parents should be notified if their child wanted to be identified by pronouns that didn’t match their sex at birth. The superintendent said there would be discussions around each individual case, but the indication was that parents would be told.
How is this hateful to kids? It is the essence of parental rights that you be told about your child when, for whatever reason, they ask that their pronoun be changed. Do the newly elected school board members think parents should not be notified because they might get angry and abuse their child? Do they really believe collaborating with the child and lying to parents is a good policy? Somehow, with their allies in the media, the new board members were able to make a civil rights matter for kids as young as 7 or 8.
The media already mentioned, along with the Bucks County Courier Times, also conjured up the notion that Hunter and the others were on massive book-banning crusades. I interviewed Hunter and others extensively, and it was clear they crafted policies that restricted only very sexually graphic materials.
These were the books that you’ve seen parents stopped from reading passages from at school board meetings because they were so graphic. Any legitimate school district should not be making books like “Lawn Boy” or “Gender Queer” available to students.
So, what happens next? I like the thoughts of defeated school candidate Dr. Stephen Mass, who was interviewed by the DVJournal.
He said, “The only winners in Tuesday’s elections are the private schools, who will see their enrollment skyrocket in the next few years when parents see what policies are coming into our district.” I think Mass has a good crystal ball.