Moms for Liberty (M4L), a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated extremist group, purports to defend so-called “parental rights.” GLAAD has been documenting its ties to national anti-LGBTQ groups and leaders, as well as the group’s dangerous disinformation and rhetoric about transgender children, LGBTQ-inclusive books and books about race and racism, and the LGBTQ community at large. Increasingly, M4L is using school board elections to advance its anti-LGBTQ agenda and to gain clout.
M4L self-reports a membership of more than 130,000 people with chapters in 48 states. Since its launch in 2021, the group has vociferously encouraged members to run for open seats on their local school boards. They can also apply for an endorsement from their local M4L chapter, at which point they must complete a questionnaire indicating whether they support anti-LGBTQ policies like forcibly outing trans students to their parents and restricting all students’ access to inclusive books.
M4L’s co-founders — Tiffany Justice, Tina Descovitch, and Bridget Ziegler — are all current or former school board members themselves. They understand the influence of these often overlooked governing bodies, which oversee school budgets, make decisions about educational curricula and policies, and employ district superintendents.
Public schools are meant to be safe, nonpartisan spaces for all children — including America’s 300,000 trans and nonbinary youth — to obtain a robust education. By infiltrating or “flipping” school boards in multiple localities nationwide, M4L seeks to promote its anti-LGBTQ agenda within American public schools, jeopardizing the safety of LGBTQ youth, families, and educators. The group’s founders and endorsees have advocated for policies like:
- Banning LGBTQ-inclusive books from school libraries and book fairs
- Prohibiting discussions of race or LGBTQ identities in schools
- Forcing teachers to invalidate trans students’ gender identity, chosen name, and/or pronouns
- Barring teachers from indicating LGBTQ-affirming spaces with stickers or signage
M4L’s focus on school board elections has attracted attention from mainstream media outlets. Too many stories neglect to acknowledge M4L’s far-right agenda, affiliations with known conspiracy theorists, and/or anti-LGBTQ record. Stories should also note that M4L’s self-described mission for “parents’ rights” does not include the rights of LGBTQ parents, parents of LGBTQ children, ally parents who also want accurate and inclusive education for their children, and parents from communities of color.
The stakes are high for all parents and communities, who overwhelmingly reject book and curriculum bans and categorically oppose using classrooms as political battlegrounds. Per Ballotpedia, 9,000 school districts in 35 states have regular elections scheduled for 2023. Some of these races have already occurred, but many are slated for Election Day (Tuesday, November 7).
Although M4L is a far-right group, its reach extends into traditionally progressive and progressive-leaning states, ostensibly because its leaders recognize that they can influence policy at the local level and leverage complacency among blue state voters.
According to recent research from the Brown Center for Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, New York — a state that has consistently voted for pro-equality candidates at the state and federal levels — has the highest estimated number of M4L members (13,000+) in any state nationwide. Researchers also found that M4L has a stronghold of 10,000+ members in Pennsylvania, where numerous school board elections will occur in November. M4L previously held its 2023 national summit in Philadelphia, drawing Republican presidential candidates for 2024 to this crucial swing state.
Two Pennsylvania school districts are holding particularly contentious school board races this November: Central Bucks and Pennridge. Per Salon’s reporting, outraged parents from the latter community are clapping back at M4L, which already has ties to five of its nine current school board members. And in states like Ohio, grassroots groups are creating online resources to sound the alarm on local school board candidates with ties to regional and national extremist groups.
Historical data indicate that M4L-backed candidates are most likely to win school board elections in more conservative areas. Still, regardless of your location, it’s important to look out for any red-flag candidates on your ballot.
Before you head to the polls on November 7, take note of any upcoming school board races in your community. Educate yourself on each candidate’s views on race and LGBTQ equality in schools, and flag anyone who is endorsed by or tied to extremist groups like Moms for Liberty. (The group lists its current endorsements here.) Many of these organizations use phrases like “parental rights” or “promoting liberty” despite the evidence showing they only support parents who look and think like them. Be wary of candidates who mirror this language.