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Push for Radical Gender Policies in K-12 Education a Top-Down Effort, Mastriano Says

Parents in several Delaware Valley school districts have complained about their children being exposed to a “woke” gender agenda and explicitly sexual books and materials in their classrooms.

Now critics are pointing to materials from the state Department of Education under Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that appear to make it look like a top-down effort.

For example, the DOE website lists genders as “ne, ve, ze/zie and xe,” as well as “he/him, she/her” that they label “traditional.”

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for governor, called out the Wolf administration and is touting bills he’s introduced to empower parents and end these programs.

“Once again, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration skirts the legislative process to implement a far-left agenda behind the backs of the 13 million Pennsylvanians,” Mastriano said in a statement. “These guidelines encourage school districts to proselytize radical ideas about gender identity to children in all grades, all under the guise of school safety.

“The department touts the left’s twisted vernacular as objective fact, while the governor’s Democratic allies demonize parents as too bigoted to teach their own children about these sensitive topics,” Mastriano said. “We can teach kids to be tolerant, accepting, and kind to others – no matter what – without indoctrinating an entire generation.”

Mastriano said he stands behind several Senate-led bills to prioritize and empower parental involvement in our public education system, alert families about explicit material available in school libraries and limit formal conversations about gender identity and sexual orientation to middle and high school curriculum only.

He also introduced legislation earlier this year to establish a Parental Bill of Rights. It would give families statutory rights to “direct the upbringing of their children free from bureaucratic overreach,” the release said.

“Our schools need to focus on closing the learning gaps that worsened as a result of the governor’s ill-advised pandemic school closures, not forcing elementary-age children to engage in inappropriate conversations about gender identity,” Mastriano said. “It is up to parents, not the state, to engage with their children on these complex social issues and I will never stop fighting for their right to do so.”

Casey Smith, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, defended the gender policy. “The children who attend our schools represent the diverse backgrounds and cultures of our commonwealth, and that includes Pennsylvanians with various gender identities and expression. It is incumbent upon us to support all learners and make them all feel welcome in their schools and communities.

“The Wolf administration supports equity, inclusion, and belonging efforts in every school, and one way we can better serve our learners is by providing resources so that schools can support students who come from all walks of life.”

Fenicia Redman, a parent with a son in the Great Valley School District, told DVJournal she believes there is an intentional effort to influence children with an extreme ideology. “There are wolves among our children masquerading as Granny. I’ll see them soon in federal court.” Redman said she plans to sue the district over sexually explicit books found in school libraries.

Jim Jacobs, who took his son out of the West Chester Area School District because of a gay pride celebration at Stetson Middle School that encouraged boys to wear dresses, agrees this is not education.

“I know teachers who tell me personally – in private – they hate this garbage and agenda. But they want to retain their jobs,” Jacobs said. “Everyone I have spoken to, regardless of political party, has a huge issue with this being taught, but they’re afraid of standing up because of repercussions and being canceled. These are our youth coaches, shop owners, and just everyday working Americans who want to live their lives and educate their kids. Its indoctrination on top of indoctrination- how does this get passed to be taught to our children without parents being involved?

“Yes, it’s important to be tolerant and accepting of different religious beliefs and sexual preferences- but introducing this in school for kindergarten, middle school, and high school? Insanity,” said Jacobs.

The  Central Bucks School Board voted last week to keep graphic books out of elementary and middle school libraries.

A campaign spokesman for Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democrat running for governor, did not respond when asked whether Shapiro would keep the Wolf administration policies in place.

 

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DelVal Parents Told Posters of Kids’ Books ‘Too Graphic’ to Display at Capitol

When Fenicia Redman organized a group of Delaware Valley parents to travel to Harrisburg this week and argue that public schools are exposing children to inappropriate content, she didn’t know the state Capitol police would help make her case.

Redman, whose son attends Great Valley High School, supports two bills limiting sexual content in the curriculum and discussions of gender identity. Both advanced out of the state Senate Education Committee this week, She has been leading the charge against sexually explicit content in some school library books.

While at the Capitol, Redman talked with state Rep. Barbara Gleim (R-Carlisle) and state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin), garnering support for her cause. She showed them posters of obscene illustrations in school library books available to children.

Books the parents object to include, “Gender Queer,” “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex.”

Mastriano, the Republican candidate for governor and member of the education committee, said in a statement the two bills will “empower parents to ensure their children are not exposed to sexually explicit materials and bizarre discussions about gender identity. Just this week, I had a visitor (Redman) to my office who showed me some of the explicit materials found in her child’s school library. It was shocking, to say the least. Schools need to be focused on educating–not indoctrinating–our students. The classroom needs to be a place for learning, not a place for gender theory lessons and grooming.”

SB 1277 requires districts to notify parents about sexually explicit content in the school curriculum and whether their child’s coursework includes that content. SB 1278 would prohibit classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation for pre-kindergarten through 5th-grade students. Both passed the committee on Tuesday and will be taken up by the full Senate.

Redman and other parents who were with her, including a pastor who usually votes Democratic, wanted to show legislators that “this is real. We were out there peacefully…I am a parent, and I have a child who is being victimized by the mere presence of these books in the school library.”

And while Redman’s group was in the Capitol holding signs showing the explicit illustrations in books found in local school libraries, they were ordered by police to take them down. Too graphic.

“Capitol Police Lt. Devlin ordered me to remove the most graphic pictures because someone complained. ‘Children walk these halls,’ he told me.”

“I replied, ‘But these books are in school libraries and—‘”

“‘I don’t care. Get rid of them, or you’re OUT!” he told her. So, she packed up the posters of the obscene book illustrations. As she was walking down the hallway, Redman saw Mastriano’s office and went in and showed his staff the book illustrations and asked what “his position is on the criminal exploitation of our children, of minors in school is.”

The staff member went to a back office and ushered Redman in a minute later.

“And when I showed it to him, his jaw dropped,” she said.

Another senator’s office had an easel with a sign warning against banning books. Redman put one of her illustrations beneath it to juxtapose that message with the pornographic illustrations.

State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) posted on Instagram about banning books: “DYSTOPIAN: Banning books is antithetical to the pursuit of knowledge — especially when this draconian ban targets books that address race and racism. PA students deserve better.”

Gleim says she first saw the books with lurid illustrations that she called “pornography” at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference in March and was surprised they were available in public school libraries. Since then she has been alerting her colleagues in the House, including Speaker Bryan Cutler, about the issue.

She has also heard from various parent groups and talked with the Pennsylvania State Education Association, and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

“The content is not appropriate,” Gleim said. “We’re working on ways where we can define what is age-appropriate for minors in school libraries.”

And she believes showing this content to minors may also violate federal laws.

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West Chester Area Parents Continue to Object to Pornographic Books in Schools

In the face of parent complaints, the West Chester Area School District continues to keep controversial books on its middle and high school shelves, including extreme adult language and graphic images of sex.

At the April school board meeting, parents read some of the more explicit content of the books. Superintendent Bob Sokolowski responded by reiterating his support for keeping the controversial content in schools. “I’m standing, students. I’m standing with you and some of the things I heard tonight, we’re talking about freedom of speech. We’re talking about choice. We’re talking about choice and we’re talking about listening to the voice of our students and students, my pledge to you: We’re going to turn that volume up and you’re going to hear the student’s voice.”

Anita Edgarian, a mom, told Delaware Valley Journal that the “superintendent of WCASD pledges to ‘turn it up’ to LGBTQ students after many parents read from sexually explicit materials in our library. The rest of the students don’t matter.”

Mike Winterode told the board that when concerned parents, grandparents, and residents spoke about the books at a previous meeting, they were accused of being intolerant and transphobic. But many of the books they are complaining about include explicit scenes of heterosexual sex as well.

“Those speakers are missing the point. They’re only focused on the transgender characters in the books and not the content of the book itself,” said Winterode. “The fact is, along with [the book] “Gender Queer,” there are a large amount of school district library books containing graphic and obscene content, with heterosexual characters, as well as homosexual and transgender characters. Our concern is with the content, not the characters.”

Image from “Gender Queer”

Winterode noted that the books don’t just “sit innocently on library shelves.” In January, one of his neighbors told the board about his 6th-grade daughter being given a book about gender transition by her teacher.

Winterode noted schools are protected from charges of giving pornography to minors because of a law that exempts education institutions. He called on the state legislators to change that law.

Parent after parent spoke about the library books, some reading shockingly graphic scenes of sexual acts.

“There are many books in our libraries that are not appropriate for even high school-age children,” said Leanne Smith. “Some books include both physical and sexual abuse and even some child grooming.” There are “books listed 18-plus like, ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex.’ Do high schoolers need to read that? You need to take a fine-tooth comb to the libraries in the district.”

Lisa Mansueto said she is concerned about “lack of communication with parents” and “lack of common sense.” She read excerpts from “Tricks” that she called “straight-up pornography with a hefty dose of heroin and cocaine and prostitution and rape, all available to high schoolers.”

Alexis Cooper said, “School librarians seem to feel that minors should have access to all sorts of content even if it’s not age-appropriate.” She cited “Milk and Honey” and the book about tantric sex.

“If this happened in any other setting, adults would be facing charges,” she said. “Yet schools have zero accountability.”

“Leave controversial matters to the parents,” Cooper urged the board.

Several parents, a student, and an author also spoke, telling the board they are in support of keeping the books in the school libraries.

Julie Moyer leads a support group for parents of transgender children. She said most of the books that other parents are objecting to involve LGTBQ-plus information. Transgender youth are four times as likely to commit suicide, she said.

“I am grateful to the school board for voting to keep books like “Gender Queer” on the shelves…We shouldn’t make these books unavailable to the people that need them.”

Edgarian later said those parents who spoke against the pornographic books “respect and love” the LGBTQ students but do not believe these books are age-appropriate.

“I look at the total individual, not only their sexual or gender part, their interests, talents, personality, desires, goals. We need to stop categorizing people,” she said.

Parents in several other Delaware Valley school districts, including Central Bucks, Radnor, and Great Valley have also complained about books with graphic content in their schools. The issue was highlighted in the Republican governor race when former Congressman Lou Barletta recently held a press conference on the topic.

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How Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying Stalls Education Reform Favored by Taxpayers

Taxpayer-funded public school lobbyists who favor increased funding at taxpayer expense typically oppose legislation that would expand educational opportunities for the children of those same taxpayers, according to policy analysts and elected officials.

That’s a lose-lose arrangement for Pennsylvania parents who are dissatisfied with the performance of their public schools. But it’s also one they are largely unaware of, said Rep. Andrew Lewis, a Dauphin County Republican, in an interview. He finds that too many lawmakers are “cowed” by well-funded pressure groups.

“It’s sad to see how much influence these comparably small organizations have when you contrast them with the magnitude of all the parents across Pennsylvania who want to be able to send their kids to a school of their choice,” Lewis said. “But if you’re lawmaker just listening to this alphabet soup of groups like the School Boards Association, or say, the Association of School Business Officials, then you’re inside the bubble and you’re not listening to parents.”

Lewis is the lead the sponsor of House Bill 1, which would implement a wide range of public and private school options. The bill would remove current impediments to the formation of new charter schools while also increasing the amount of scholarship funds that would be available to cover private school tuition. But Pennsylvania taxpayers who support these proposals are funding public school lobbyists who do not, which would help to explain why the bill has not yet moved out of the House education committee.

Rep. Andrew Lewis

At least $24.1 million in tax dollars were spent on membership organizations that participated in lobbying efforts from 2017 to 2020, while 26 local governments and agencies spent $18 million in tax dollars to hire contract lobbyists since 2007, according to two new reports from the Commonwealth Foundation, a free market think tank based in Harrisburg.

Here are some of the key findings:

The largest association representing school officials is the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PBSA), a $9 million outfit with 9 registered lobbyists, funded by $7.2 million in taxpayer-funded dues. The PBSA has made it a priority to cut funding for charter schools and increase funding for conventional public schools while opposing school choice measures.

But it’s not alone. Since 2007, the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials has received $735,000 in tax dollars, the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Administrators has received $490,000, the Pennsylvania Principals’ Association has received $150,000, and the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small School has received $94,000.

“I never hear these groups talk about what’s best for parents or what’s best for kids even though these entities are funded by the taxpayers,” Lewis said. “They’ll often complain about charter school funding, and they’ll often describe this as their number one problem plaguing their districts. But what they fail to realize, or mention, is that any parent that sends their kid to a charter school has determined that this is a better option for them than what the school districts currently provides for their kid. So, these taxpayer-funded entities are advocating directly opposite for what’s in the best interests of those parents and their kids. They also ignore the fact the public school district gets to keep 25 percent of the funding and they don’t have to pay for any of the actual educational costs borne by the charter.”

Under HB 1, Lewis would open new avenues for charter schools, expand existing tax credit scholarship programs and create Education Opportunity Accounts where the state would deposit about $6,000 per student for parents to spend on education. The bill also provides protections and incentives for “learning pods,” which groups of parents formed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lewis would create “affirmative protections” to ensure that parents and children who take part in learning pods “are not subject to undue surveillance, reporting, regulatory demands or harassment,” according to a legislative memo attached to the bill.

“This might be the most aggressive school choice bill in the country now,” Lewis said. “But getting this bill out of committee has been a challenge. One option we have considered is a discharge resolution, and how this works is you get a couple dozen members to sign on and force the bill out of committee. That’s step one, but then you still have to get leadership to run the bill. But with school choice being as important, timely, and crucial as it is, we should vote so the people can see where legislators stand.”

Lewis favors the creation of a statewide authorization board as part of HB. 1 to empower local communities with more options to create charter schools.

“Right now, we have a situation where the school district decides whether to authorize a new charter and what this means is you have the fox guarding the hen house. Often times, the people making these decisions are the ones running the failing schools and they know that if a new player comes in who is competitive it’s going to take away some of their student population.

“So, you’ve got this double situation where not only is a school failing, but these school officials are blocking any entity that would provide new opportunities for families. My bill creates an independent statewide charter authorizer that bypasses the local districts so charters can gain approval from an unbiased board,” Lewis said.

What then are the prospects for education reform?

Lewis sees an opportunity to expand both the Education Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Tax Credit programs as part of the budgetary negotiations that will take place over the next few months. He’s less certain about the possibility of charter school proposals and Education Opportunity Accounts gaining traction at least in the near term.

“There are several promising proposals,” he said. “But I don’t know if our leadership has the stomach or the willpower to fight for these reforms so they can come to fruition. The charter school component of my bill, for example, is a heavy lift because special interests see it as a threat to their monopoly.”

Dave Hardy, a senior fellow with The Commonwealth Foundation, who is also the co-founder and retired CEO of the Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia charter school, expects to see parents operating at disadvantage so long as their tax dollars are used to support lobbying against legislation that they favor.

“If the people who operate charter schools want to do any lobbying, they have to do it out of their own pockets,” Hardy said. “But there’s a whole apparatus that has been set up and funded by the taxpayer to lobby against charters. It’s really an insane situation. Parents who want to talk to lawmakers and pay for their own traveling are on a limited budget. They are at a huge disadvantage.”

The Commonwealth Foundation performed its studies by submitting Right-to-Know requests to local government agencies including school districts. But only about 40percent of those agencies responded and out of the 571 school entities that received open records requests, just 105 responded – a response rate of just 18 percent. For this reason, the reports understate the amount of taxpayer money that is devoted to opposing school choice. Even so, the reports produce several major takeaways that help to explain why reform measures like HB.1 have stalled.

The bottom line is that public school lobbyists have a huge financial advantage over taxpayers who do not support their policy agenda. The Pittsburgh School District, for example, paid $552,075 to Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney from 2013 to 2020, according to Right-to-Know records. A search of the Pennsylvania State Department’s lobbying database shows the district spent an added $293,467 for lobbying from April 2008 to December 2012.

A complete list of the expenditures where taxpayer money has been used to pay lobbyists is available here. Some of the school districts that ring the bell include the Hempfield Area School District, the Philadelphia School District, the Pittsburgh School District, the Bloomsburg Area School District, the West York Area School District, the Harrisburg School District, and the Sharon City School District.

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Parent, Residents Complain About Sexual Content in WCASD Books

A West Whiteland parent says he was surprised and disturbed when his 11-year-old daughter brought a book home from school that tells the story, in graphic detail, of a young boy who wants to be a girl. Worse, the father said, the book was assigned to his daughter by her teacher.

The book is “George” by Alex Gino features references to pornography and masturbation, according to The New York Times.

The West Whiteland parent, who asked that his name not be used, told the West Chester Area School Board about the book and his concerns at a Jan. 24 meeting.

“My daughter asked me, ‘Is this book OK,’” the dad said. “I opened it and began flipping through the pages and began noticing things.” The main character, a fourth-grade boy named George, wanted to be a girl. He takes pills to block male hormones, begins to wear girls’ underwear and clothes, and uses the girls’ bathroom.

“Why would an adult, a teacher, give her a book like this?” he asked. “I told her to take it back and ask for another book. The second book, about a young Black boy in Harlem who was bullied by White boys and called the N-word, the father told the Delaware Valley Journal. “What is the teacher’s agenda?”

He contacted the superintendent and principal before speaking at the school board meeting. Because of other incidents, he is concerned about the direction the district is headed in. He said two different teachers asked his older daughter about being vaccinated in front of her classmates, a violation of medical privacy. Also, a homeroom teacher refused to have the class recite the Pledge of Allegiance and a student on his daughter’s bus told other students that America should be communist.

“This is what kids are talking about today,” he said.

“I’m asking for a policy that limits a teacher’s ability to promote or discuss any hot topics in the classroom,” he told the school board. And if a teacher does not comply, there should be consequences, he said.

Another West Whiteland resident, Mike Winterode, also spoke to the board. He had compiled a list of more than 70 books that discuss various transgender and LGBTQ topics, sometimes in clinical detail, which are in the middle and high school libraries. Winterode mentioned “George” as well.

“Scientists specializing in brain development have confirmed that the portions of the brain that evaluate risk and make informed decisions are among the last to mature, usually not until the early twenties,” said Winterorde. “With that in mind, I can think of few decisions that require a fully developed, mature brain than deciding to change one’s gender. Which is why I find it troubling that there are books currently in our middle school libraries that promote changing gender before puberty.”

Another book Winterode mentioned was “Pet,’ a crime-fighting novel by Akwaeke Emez. In it, “The main character decided at age three that he was a girl. At age 10, he was implanted with puberty blockers, and at 13 given hormones that made his hips widen and breasts grow. Surely, all necessary details for a crime-fighting novel. This book is currently available in all three middle school libraries,” he said.

“Most parents are unaware that these books exist in our middle school libraries. They deserve an explanation as to why their children are being exposed to this kind of material at such a vulnerable age,” said Winterode.

Other area parents, including some in Radnor, have raised similar complaints about the contents of the school libraries.

The board did not respond to the men’s comments or discuss the topic at the meeting.

However, district communications manager Molly Schwember said the district takes their concerns seriously and works with parents and guardians.

“As affirmed in the Library Bill of Rights of the American Library Association and outlined in district policy 109.1AG1, we also take seriously our responsibility to help our students grow into informed and responsible citizens through free access to a comprehensive collection of materials that are representative and considerate of varied interests, abilities, and maturity,” she said in an emailed response.

Under the district’s policies, “parents and guardians are able to review existing instructional materials and submit a complaint form requesting the reconsideration of the use of a book in our schools. The process for responding to and making final decisions on any complaints received is outlined in District policy 906AG1. The district has responded to all existing complaints of this nature thus far, and has taken the necessary actions deemed appropriate following the review and recommendation process,” she said.

“In all areas, the district is committed to being responsive to new information and questions, and these policies guide us in our process for addressing any formal complaints received as well as the initial selection of books to be included within our schools,” she said.

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NASCIMENTO: Dumbing Down Education Hurts Kids and the Country


As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

Once again, across the country and here in the Delaware Valley, school aged children are being forced into virtual learning. And once again, it’s the very districts that can least afford to have their children outside of the classroom that are most impacted.

We know from experience that children do best when they are in the classroom; we also know from the COVID virtual experience that we all just lived through that there are many secondary impacts to children beyond being behind in learning. Many of our children are being unfairly burdened with mental, behavioral and health impacts due to prolonged time out of the classroom.

At the same time, school districts and local leaders across the country are deliberately pushing the “dumbing down” of America in the name of equity. From the principal in Minnesota that is eliminating failing grades, to the (thankfully) former mayor of NYC who unilaterally eliminated the city’s Gifted and Talented program, the very foundation of our education is under attack from those entrusted with its success. Just this week, I saw notice of the Methacton School District waiving midterms and finals for all classes this year – a dangerous trend.

In truth, all these actions hurt the very children that they propose to help. Pushing a child on to the next grade because we don’t give out “F”s is not “equitable.” It is, in fact, leaving them unprepared for the future challenges that they will face.

We’ve also previously seen the Attorney General of the United States, without documenting any specific threats, taking an unprecedented step to issue a memo likening parents attending school board meetings to domestic terrorists. All while a company founded and run by his son-in-law does work for various school districts across the country on the very topics that many of their parents are emotional about.

As a former school board president, I can speak from experience on how heated school board meetings can get when there is a topic that the community is passionate about, and no topics arouse passion more than those that affect people’s children. But parents must be made to be partners in the decisions that impact their children’s future.

Whether a child goes onto college, grad school, the military, or a trade, what they lean in primary school is foundational to their success, and to the success of our nation. Cheating them on an honest assessment on what and how they learn and cheating their parents out of their rightful and appropriate involvement, is cheating an entire country.

The Constitution is silent on education; it leaves these matters to the localities. However, when the federal government threatens and the local government abdicates its responsibilities, then Congress must act to ensure that future generations are educated properly. This can be done by passing legislation that calls for minimum standards in grading and curriculum in order to receive federal funding. Congress can also finally pass meaningful legislation to provide school choice to millions of families across the country.

From national security to economic prosperity, there is no greater challenge facing us today that the education of our children. As Jefferson has been quoted, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”

 

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ROSICA: Will Parents Tip the Elections in 2022?

One day after winning the gubernatorial race in Virginia, Glenn Youngkin stated “We’re going to embrace our parents, not ignore them.”  Youngkin understood that angry and frustrated parents were essential to his successful bid to become governor.

All over the country, parents are dissatisfied with their local schools and school boards and concerned about their children’s future.  Extended school closures, hybrid classrooms, and overly conservative quarantine policies have harmed students academically, emotionally, and behaviorally.  Transitioning back and forth between remote, hybrid, and in-person creates continued stress for both parents and students, particularly the neediest children.

In Pennsylvania, Back to School PA PAC helped to mobilize and organize these distraught parents to recruit, train, and support potential school board candidates who put the students first. Supporting school board races in 17 diverse counties and well over 200 bi-partisan candidates, Back to School PA achieved a 60 percent success rate in its first endeavor. However, Back to School PA believes that 2021 was just the beginning for parent involvement in school board races and politics in general.

With no school board races in 2022 in Pennsylvania, these same advocates who formed Political Action Committees (PAC) to support school board candidates are trying to determine how they can influence and/or support other key races across the state. Parents have been activated, and most are now committed to remaining engaged in local and state government.

More parents may come out to vote in Pennsylvania in 2022 than any other election in recent history. Regardless of political affiliation, parents are exhausted and concerned about the future for their children and for the commonwealth.  If schools do not stay open reliably, it is difficult for parents to work.  Mothers bore the brunt of the school closures, as 33 percent of women left the workforce to support their children during virtual school. Single mothers and low-income families suffered the most during school closures. Domestic violence and child abuse increased. Pediatric hospitals are being overrun with mental health concerns, and suicide attempts have increased exponentially. More children are being hospitalized for eating disorders and depression.  Parents have watched their children falling apart literally before their eyes.

Parents have spent almost two years witnessing how local government works and how it failed our children. Many parents participated in their local school board meetings for the first time.  These parents would spend hours preparing their statement, and then they were dismissed as being selfish for wanting their children in school. In some districts, parent comments were actually censored or not included during virtual meetings. For the most part, parents have not been welcome at school board meetings and many have felt disrespected, while some have been escorted out of meetings by police.  Parents want transparency about what is happening in the classroom, and they want to be engaged and respected, not dismissed or labeled domestic terrorists.

The National School Boards Association labeled upset parents as “domestic terrorists” who should be considered dangerous and treated as such.  Instead of encouraging and modeling civil discourse, local, state and national government leaders have repeatedly shown that differing opinions and simply asking questions are not welcome.

These issues are likely to bring out more parents to vote in 2022. Parents want candidates who are not beholden to special interest groups, like the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA). They want candidates who will place the importance of children and their future first. Most parents want a balanced approach to government, diversity of thought, and transparency around decision-making.  Every parent wants to be respected as the person who knows what is best for their child.

Respect of parental rights may be the single biggest issue for the 2022 elections.  Parents have never felt as demoralized and hopeless as they have over the last 22 months.  Watching their children struggle academically, emotionally, and behaviorally and feeling helpless to support them has changed the game for many parents.  And those parents who were also forced out of the workforce or had to choose between work and supporting their children during virtual learning, will not soon forget the impact of these draconian measures on their children.

2022 may be the year when parents reclaim their rights at the polls.

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STEIN: Looking Back at DelVal News for 2021

“There is a Chinese curse which says May he live in interesting times.’ Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty, but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind,” Robert F. Kennedy said in 1966.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached our shores, the country and the Delaware Valley have been living in “interesting times,” to say the least. Everything from shopping to education to sports has been seen through the lens of COVID, and whether it might lead one to contract it or would mitigate the virus.

Local and state governments collected numbers and issued mandates. Schools were locked down, reopened, and some locked down again. One of the biggest political stories the Delaware Valley Journal covered in 2021 was the rise of parent power. Parents objected to COVID lockdowns and masks at school board meetings, parents opposed to Critical Race Theory, and shocked parents asking school boards to remove what they deem as pornographic books from school libraries, along with school boards limiting parents’ free speech rights.

This also gave rise to election victories for school board candidates who promised not to shut down schools again and the successful statewide political strategy of Back to School PA PAC, which gave about $700,000 to back those candidates’ campaigns.

Another big story this year is crime and violence in Philadelphia, arguably driven by progressive prosecution—or lack thereof—by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office headed by DA Larry Krasner, who was re-elected in November. As of this writing, 555 people were victims of homicide in Philadelphia in 2021—a horrific new record.

At the state government level, voters sent a clear message to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in May when they approved ballot initiatives limiting his emergency powers. It was a also the year when amazing numbers of Republican candidates began vying for the governor’s seat in the 2022 primary, along with similarly large  fields of hopefuls of both parties seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Pat Toomey. The Senate race, which may tip the balance of the Senate, could become one of the most closely-watched political contests in the U.S.

The 2021 election process in some DelVal counties also came under fire as delays, mistakes, and mail-in ballots caused consternation.  That has also been a huge issue nationwide since former President Donald Trump questioned the validity of the election process that resulted in his defeat in the swing states, including Pennsylvania. And a lawsuit was filed against Delaware County officials alleging malfeasance in the handling of the 2020 election there.

Another statewide issue in the DelVal Journal was Wolf’s unilateral plunge into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a move that will undoubtedly limit Pennsylvania’s job growth and drive up energy costs for businesses and residents.

RGGI is supposed to reduce greenhouse gases by an auction process for power producers and industrial plants in 12 states, which buy credits to offset emissions. But those other RGGI states are not energy producers like Pennsylvania, with its wealth of natural gas.

And we have closely followed the controversy over the $6.1 billion Mariner East II pipeline. Some residents who live in the vicinity of the pipeline along with public officials have fought the pipeline, while overlooking clear benefits from the pipeline for employment, safety over rail or truck transport, and reduced energy costs. Luckily, for the economy of the DelVal region those efforts appear to have failed and the project is on track for completion.

Locally, Hurricane Ida hit some DelVal areas hard with flood damage as streams overflowed their banks while tornadoes pummeled parts of Bucks and Montgomery Counties.

National issues of inflation and supply-side woes also affected the Delaware Valley region as the Biden administration’s energy and regulatory policies began to be felt here.

In Norristown, the DelVal Journal broke a story regarding Norristown Area School Board President Shae Ashe sending sexually suggestive messages on social media to an underage Norristown High School girl. In the wake of those articles, Ashe resigned from the board and, although he was re-elected, did not return to it.

In Delaware County, the new Health Department, promised by Democrats who were elected to a majority in the county council in 2019, is taking shape and expected to open in 2022. It will cost taxpayers an estimated $10 million its first year.

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FLOWERS: Woke Valley Forge Middle School PTO President Castigates White Parents

We’ve learned over the past two years that local is everything when it comes to civic life. If you are angry that your White child is being taught that he is guilty of having slave owner ancestors, you visit your local school board meeting to protest. If you are upset that your child is being swathed in unnecessary masks from morning to late afternoon, with no recreation breaks and only a brief reprieve to swallow and chew, you go to the school board again. If you don’t want to lose your job because your boss has decided to mandate vaccines and you’re hesitant, or if you just want one damn ticket to see “Hamilton” without getting the third degree at the box office about your history with infectious diseases, you write a letter to the editor, stage a work stoppage, picket the theater, write a screed on Facebook or run for office yourself. Forget Joe Biden; let’s NOT go Brandon, this is personal.

I’ve been witness to that since the pandemic began, and even before. But the rise of COVID has intensified the political awakening on the part of my neighbors. It’s also turned some of them into rabid creatures, drunk on the power of being woke and intent on neutralizing those neighbors who get in the way of their agenda.

Recently at a (here we go again) local panel discussion entitled Asian American Perspectives on Race & Equity, the president of the PTO at Valley Forge Middle School, Un Kyong Ho, made this comment about some of her own neighbors:

“I believe that the far-right, who are motivated by white supremacist ideas, are really scared right now because demographically, there is nothing they can do about the fact that there is a browning of this country.”  She also dismissed parents’ requests to review teacher training materials which are funded by taxpayer money as being “communist.”

Ho has also made clear on a public community forum her opinion about those who do not share her opinion on vaccines, stating “F*** the Unvaccinated.”

A Change.Org petition has been circulated seeking her resignation, which is unlikely to happen since Ho has been unapologetic in defending her comments, and she has a base of community support among her friends who also believe the unvaccinated should engage in some form of reproductive recreation.

While I do not know Ho personally and have no connection to the Valley Forge Middle School, I have a serious problem with someone in a position of authority, albeit in a volunteer position, who displays this level of hostility and ignorance toward the parents of other children in her community. The defiance and extremism of her words are ironic, given the fact that it is precisely the targets of her ire–White conservatives–who are tarred as wild-eyed zealots.

As someone who has spent the good part of her career dealing with immigrants, I find it reprehensible that someone would attack people with differing ideologies on academics as xenophobes who are afraid of those who don’t look or sound like them. It is also disturbing to hear the term “communist” bandied about to describe concerned citizens who merely want to see what is being provided to children under the guise of academic enrichment, particularly when that enrichment is being paid for by the parents of those children.

Whether Ho resigns is not up to me, nor is it up to anyone reading this. It is a personal decision. But I do think that we have a right to examine up close those individuals who seek to exert influence in our local communities, to assess whether they have the character to be in positions of authority.

As they always say, sunshine is the best disinfectant.