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Human Rights activist Melanie Nathan censored by government

Speaking contract canceled because of critical Trump tweets

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Activist Melanie Nathan (Photo courtesy Nathan)

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said out philosopher George Santayana. America seems to be drowning in a tsunami of forgetfulness since Donald Trump’s election and his subsequent declaration: “I’m the only one that matters.” Trump was referring that Dec. 2017 to the slew of unfilled government posts—but that sentiment and the loyalty oath he required from FBI Director James Comey, whom he fired when Comey refused—have rippled through the federal government faster than the spread of McCarthyism after the Second World War.

Trump’s obsession for loyalty to him, not the US Constitution, may be filtering down to nervous directors and staff members at even the most tangential of federal agencies. Here, behind the scenes, out of the glare of the public spotlight, a Trump brand of McCarthyism may be taking hold with public officials developing their own versions of black lists and enemies lists or quietly breaking or denying a contract to someone they fear might cause repercussions for them with a Trump enforcer, watchdog or snitch.
How else explain what happened to Melanie Nathan?

Nathan, who lives in San Francisco, is an internationally renowned human rights activist, speaker, executive director of the African Human Rights Coalition and South African attorney who fought for the victims of apartheid. She had been invited by a largely civilian diversity-oriented group of researchers and scientists at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division ( NAVAIR) to speak at two Pride events at China Lake base near Bakersfield and Point Mugu in Oxnard on June 26 and June 27, 2018, respectively.

Their negotiations included Nathan agreeing not to get political but to stick to LGBT education based on the theme of San Francisco Pride this year, “Generations of Strength.” The group and the Division’s legal department accepted her theme, her proposed outline and her fee. She even sent in her power point presentation. In the meantime, Nathan waved off other opportunities because the Navy said in writing that they accepted her proposal.

But as Nathan was filling out the security forms to get onto the two bases, she received an email informing her the contract was cancelled. “We recently became aware of several comments you’ve made on Twitter regarding our nation’s current administration. While those comments and views are appropriate for an individual, given free speech, they are inappropriate for our agency to endorse a potential speaker of a command-sponsored event. Given our position within the Department of Defense, the President serves as our commander-in-chief. Therefore, we need to cease further discussions with you regarding our Pride Month events,” wrote a Naval EEO Manager.

Nathan was shocked. She wrote back asking for re-instatement. “We actually have a binding agreement between us – and we had previously agreed the talk would be non-political and purely educational,” Nathan said on a recent LGBT-Rated BlogTalk radio show. “They completely ignored me.”

Nathan hired Los Angeles-based attorney Lisa Bloom, who noted that only weeks earlier a federal judge ruled that Trump violated the First Amendment by blocking citizens on Twitter who criticized him.
The judge wrote that when the government “actively restricts” an individual’s right to speak and advocate freely, the impinges on the First Amendment.

“We will not stand idly by as Mr. Trump tries to turn this country into an authoritarian state and government agents follow his lead by censoring speakers who have challenged him on Twitter,” Bloom wrote to NAVAIR on June 18 demanding immediate reinstatement or the possibility of legal action.
And while the NAVAIR manger cited the events as being sponsored by the Navy, neither Nathan nor the citizen employees who invited her—presumably knowing her LGBT and civil rights activist background and having vetted her sufficiently, as, presumably did the legal department before signing off on the deal—is not an active duty service member subject to UCMJ codes forbidding criticism of the President. And the agreement stipulated that Nathan would only discuss LGBT history and the LGBT movement.

“This is not ‘Dear Leaders’ time in North Korea, Bloom said during an appearance on MSNBC’s AM Joy on June 23. “We don’t all have to bend the knee to Donald Trump to hold onto our government contracts. That is the very essence of the First Amendment….This is a blatantly unconstitutional action.”

“In 1985, when I immigrated from an oppressive Apartheid South Africa,” Nathan told the Los Angeles Blade, “I could not have imagined that my freedoms would be oppressed in the great United States of America. The world looks up to this beacon of democracy. This is truly painful and shocking.”

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Matt Walsh’s sordid history as a radio host, exposed

Recently, Walsh has been helping lead a campaign against children’s hospitals providing gender-affirming care

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Graphic by Molly Butler for Media Matters

By Ari Drennen | WASHINGTON – From early 2010 through August 1, 2011, Matt Walsh co-hosted a radio show called The Matt and Crank Program along with Andrew “Crank” Murr at WZBH “The Beach” 93.5 FM based in Georgetown, Delaware. The show featured all of the worst of Walsh’s bluster and bigotry without the production value given to his current work as a host for The Daily Wire, where he was hired in August 2017

Recently, Walsh has been helping lead a campaign against children’s hospitals providing gender-affirming care. On August 15, Walsh made the false, incendiary claim that these hospitals are “butchering, mutilating, and sterilizing their young patients.” The hospitals highlighted by Walsh and others have been inundated with violent threats — threats that the Daily Wire personality dismissed as a hoax before continuing his campaign.

A review of Walsh’s commentary for The Matt and Crank Program reveals that the pundit has previously praised violent political action, saying that enacting change means that “you have to make people hurt. … Holding signs and yelling loudly will not make anyone hurt.” 

The current Daily Wire personality and What is a Woman filmmaker also claimed that “we probably lost our republic after Reconstruction” and that “as the Anglo-Saxons, which were the original Americans, die off, our identity and our culture goes with it.” And he performed racist impressions and defended teenage pregnancy and marriage, saying that “at about 16, you’re an adult who is mature and can make decisions. … It’s just recently where all of a sudden we’re all r——- until we’re 25.” Walsh additionally encouraged subordinates to participate in sexually demeaning stunts, coercing an intern into exposing himself and allowing Walsh to shock him with a stun gun “in the ass.”

Matt Walsh’s violent political worldview: “You have to make people hurt”

While working at WZBH, Walsh attracted attention with a speech at a tea party rally glorifying violence, saying, “If you want extreme things to happen, you have to be willing to take — to go to extremes.

MATT WALSH: Our Founding Fathers had very specific goals in mind that they wanted to accomplish. There wasn’t a generalized sense of outrage. It was, these are our goals we want to accomplish. And by the way, they were willing to back it up with guns and violent force. If you want extreme things to happen, you have to be willing to take — to go to extremes. … Everyone keeps bringing up our Founding Fathers. They were willing to pick up guns and kill people for what they wanted. A sign won’t do it. And calling your congressman won’t do it.

On air, Walsh expanded and doubled down on his comments, saying that “if you want extreme change, you must take extreme action. … You have to make people hurt” and adding that “we probably lost our republic after Reconstruction,” seemingly criticizing the country’s first attempt at a multiracial democracy after the Civil War. Walsh further derided members of the so-called tea party movement as “not willing to do what they [the Founding Fathers] did.”

MATT WALSH (CO-HOST): But what I was trying to say, if you want extreme change, you must take extreme action. What you have to do is look at the situation and decide what exactly you want to have happen. And then you have to honestly approach it and say, what do we have to do to make this happen? But it is, in fact, true that you have to make people hurt. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry. But holding signs and yelling loudly will not make anyone hurt.

Most people will admit that we’ve been on this path not for a year, because of Obama; not for 10 years, because of Bush; not for 20 years, because of Clinton. Not Reagan, not Carter. We’ve been on this path for a hundred years or more. We probably lost our republic after Reconstruction. If you want actual change that isn’t going to reverse itself in 10 years or five years or even one year, then you do have to look at extreme action. 

And by the way, I’m not the one — you go to these tea parties, you’ve got people that are literally dressed up like it’s a costume party, dressed up like our Founding Fathers, dressed up like Samuel Adams and so forth. They’re the ones that keep harkening back to the revolutionary times. You’re the ones, tea party people, that are comparing yourself — in a not subtle way at all — to the revolutionaries. 

ANDREW MURR (CO-HOST): But then you forget what they did to accomplish their goals.

WALSH: Right. I’m saying, OK, you guys are dressing up like revolutionaries, you’re calling this the Tea Party. Don’t you understand what they did? Even the Tea Party was an illegal act. It was trespassing and vandalism. Don’t you get that? OK. You — don’t, don’t compare yourself to them because you’re not willing to do what they did.

Walsh has called for and defended political violence in many more recent examples, calling for “real men” to assault drag queensdefending secession after the January 6 storming of the Capitol, and defending violence against abortion providers in response to a mass shooting.

Matt Walsh defended pregnancy and marriage for teenage girls: “At about 16, you’re an adult who is mature and can make decisions” 

Walsh defended girls as young as 16 getting pregnant as long as they’re marrying men, saying, “The problem is not, per se, teenage pregnancy — it’s unwed pregnancy.” Walsh used an ableist slur to dismiss the idea that people are unable to consent to life-changing decisions before age 25 and said that girls “still in high school … want, biologically and metaphysically and with everything in their body, they want to settle down, they want to start a family.”

MATT WALSH (CO-HOST): Teen pregnancy is a new problem.

In the sense that it’s only recently that we decided that it is a problem, OK? But it is not a new problem in the sense that it’s a new phenomenon. It is not. In fact, ever since the beginning of time, teenage girls have been getting pregnant. It used to be more common.

WALSH: That’s my point, OK? So to all of a sudden act like this phenomenon of girls getting pregnant at that — at a young age — that we consider young, 16 or 17, to act like it’s a new thing is ridiculous. It’s always been that way. … Girls between the ages of like 17 and 24 is when they’re technically most fertile. 

… 

WALSH: OK? That’s biological. That’s a fact. I am just stating facts. That’s all I’m doing. But what happened recently, and this is the fourth fact, recently in the last 30 years or so, we decided that that’s way too young to start a family. 

WALSH: So what I’m saying is that the problem is not, per se, teenage pregnancy — it’s unwed pregnancy. That’s the problem in society. It’s only problematic when you are not married and you don’t have the man there to help you take care of the kids because he’s a coward.

… 

What I’m saying, though, is that if society was, if society was different and that we stopped insisting that you’re a kid until you’re 25 and we just deal with the reality that at about 16, you’re an adult who is mature and can make decisions — you are that at 16. I don’t care what anybody says. And if you’re going to tell me it’s different, well, then how come for the first 10,000 years of human civilization, that’s the way it was? It’s just recently where all of a sudden we’re all r——- until we’re 25?

And I got some more news for you. 17-year-old girls and 18-year-old girls that are still in high school, just getting into college, many of them want, biologically and metaphysically and with everything in their body, they want to settle down, they want to start a family, and that’s always gonna be that way, no matter what you do.

ANDREW MURR (CO-HOST): And I think a good example as to why that’s probably true is the whorish behavior of these same-aged girls when they get to college.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: There are some sluts.

MURR: They start, you know, these girls — believe me, when I went to the University of Maryland and I was a little bit older than everybody, it was like you get there and you see these innocent girls and by the end of the year, it’s just like the stories you’ve heard about them — it’s like this internal need to breed and it just comes out at the wrong time. They’re out there trying to get an education, but meanwhile —

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: To biology, that’s the perfect time. That’s when they’re, like Matt said, is most fertile. But society has told you that when you’re 18, that’s when you’re an adult, not when you’re 16 or 17.

WALSH: Yeah, and that’s a problem.

Walsh has repeatedly defended sexualization or sexual abusers of children in the more recent past, saying of the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal that “the problem is not pedophilia; the problem is gay priests” and saying that the response to a sexual abuse scandal in the Boy Scouts of America was “a lesson to us all” that “surrendering to the Left” will lead to being “completely obliterated.” 

Walsh initially defended Josh Duggar after the reality TV star was accused of sexual abuse of children, minimizing the allegations before later issuing a retraction once it came to light that Duggar had also cheated on his wife as an adult. The Daily Wire host has also minimized the #MeToo movement, suggesting that it’s “a hysterical witch hunt” and saying that women who feel violated after casual sex “consented to, and participated in, [their] own degradation.”

Matt Walsh’s racist worldview: “As the Anglo-Saxons, which were the original Americans, die off, our identity and our culture goes with it.”

As a radio DJ, Matt Walsh promoted the racist great replacement theory, expressing anxiety about “the extinction of the Anglo-Saxon race” and saying that “as the Anglo-Saxons, which were the original Americans, die off, our identity and our culture goes with it.”

MATT WALSH (CO-HOST): It is because we’re all dying off. Yes. That’s what the problem is. It’s not that, it’s not that we’re just, as the Mexicans come in, we magically meld with them and become like them. It’s not like that. It’s that we are dying off just like, just like any other species of animal does. We’re dying. And the way that animals — there’s two ways that animals die off. Well, three ways. One is disease. Two is deforestation, or they lose their habitat, which OK, look at us. And then the third one is that they stop reproducing. And those — and usually all three of those things happen kind of simultaneously. And that’s what’s happening with us. The extinction of the Anglo-Saxon race is just like that.

The Western white race is not having kids. They’re just not. That’s why before, 10 years ago, was like the average family was, whatever it was, 2.3 kids, now it’s 1.-something. I mean, we’ve lost a whole kid in 10 years. And, I mean, you just can’t survive when you refuse to have kids.

When the Mexican people come here, which is fine that they want to come, as long as they come legally, which most of them aren’t, but they bring with them — being that they’re a different culture, a different race, and everything else — they bring with them a identity, and they bring it to America. And so as the Anglo-Saxons, which were the original Americans, die off, our identity and our culture goes with it. Now, China and Japan and Korea and Vietnam and Egypt, all those countries, for thousands of years, have got to keep their identity and their culture. They’ve been allowed to preserve it, whereas ours is dying off in less than 200 years.

At other times, Walsh performed racist impressions of Black men, including calling Barack Obama Elementary School and pretending to be a father trying to enroll his son in the school. He pretended to have heard that the school was lenient with its grades, saying while posing as a Black man that Obama’s “main principle was that just cause you ain’t put in the work for something don’t mean that you shouldn’t be supplied with it.”

MATT WALSH (CO-HOST): Yeah, but let me put you on the spot right quick, because what is y’all honoring about my man Barack Obama?

EMPLOYEE: Well, just in terms of, they named the school after him, you know, and inside the school, they, you know, have pictures of him and they probably teach the students, you know, some of who he is. But overall, this, it’s still a regular school. You know, it’s not a school that — overall, the school is still run like the other schools are run. 

WALSH: OK. But it just seemed to me that the way that he would want to run it, you know, was similar to the way that he would want to run the health care and the economy, whatnot. Well, he want to make sure that, you know, I mean, just because you ain’t worked for something don’t mean that you shouldn’t get it. I mean, you feel me on that, right? 

EMPLOYEE: Um — 

WALSH: Well, just because — just cause you ain’t really put in the work for something don’t mean that you shouldn’t be, shouldn’t be supplied with it, because that’s a right that we have as Americans. 

EMPLOYEE: Well yeah, there are certain rights that we have, right? 

WALSH: Yeah. We got, I mean, I got a right. I mean, my kid got a right as an American to really get good grades in school and whatnot. You know, he’s got a right to that.

Yeah, but y’all’s, y’all Barack Obama Elementary, you know, I mean, which — which makes me presume the fact that y’all follow his principles, you know, his guiding principles and whatnot. 

EMPLOYEE 2: Yeah.

WALSH: His, his main principle was that just cause you ain’t put in the work for something don’t mean that you shouldn’t be supplied with it, because that’s the equal right that all Americans have, you know? So I want to make sure that I bring my kid over to you. You know, he can do his thing laid back, you know, but he still gonna be supplied with the grades, same as, you know, his big pops, hat would be me, you know, I’m going to be supplied with the checks, the government checks and whatnot. You know, just because I ain’t currently working don’t mean that I shouldn’t be supplied with it, you know? 

EMPLOYEE 2: Exactly. 

WALSH: So. So would that be the way you y’all run things, like maybe everybody, you know, they do their own thing, they get their own grades at the end of the semester or whatever how y’all partition it. They, you put all the grades in one pool and then, y’all split — 

EMPLOYEE 2: No, all kids. I mean. No. 

WALSH: So you telling me–

EMPLOYEE 2: You said in one pool? 

WALSH: Yeah. Yeah. You put all the grades together, you average it out, and then everyone get that average so that it’s really a team effort, you know what I mean? And everyone get the same thing because no one really has the right to be above no one else, especially when they kids. Right? 

EMPLOYEE 2: Well, all kids are treated equally. 

WALSH: Yeah, so. But how, but that ain’t the way in the school now. The school he at now right, he ain’t being treated equally. You know? Because he getting a E, he failing out while other people, you know, was getting A’s and passing on. My man on the second grade twice now, you know, and other people, they in fourth grade by now. So that ain’t equal. You know, I’m looking for some real equality. And I knew that when I saw Barack Obama Elementary was open and I said, now my man is going to supply me with what I’m looking for, because my man’s gonna run school the way he run the economy, the way he run health care — where he said, everybody’s going to get it whether you work for or not. You’re going to get it. 

EMPLOYEE 2: Well, no, he’s not in charge of the school.

Since this video, Walsh has said that white supremacists “don’t exist, for the most part” and the great replacement conspiracy theory is “just a fact.” Walsh has expressed doubt that racism exists and said that “when a white person says that all white people are inherently racist, all he’s really done is confess to being personally racist.” Walsh has also attacked Muslims, deriding them as “easily provoked,” and suggesting that “every mass attacker is Muslim.” One video from The Matt and Crank Program shows Walsh wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt.

Matt Walsh’s sexually demeaning workplace stunts: “I think we should shock you in the ass” 

At The Matt and Crank Program, Walsh appears to have sexually harassed someone at least posing as his employee (named only “Intern A” on camera), demanding that his subordinate remove his pants and allow Walsh to use a taser on his exposed butt despite multiple protestations.

MATT WALSH (CO-HOST): I would never usually suggest that a man expose his buttocks to me. … Well, here’s a serious suggestion. Why don’t we seriously shock you in the ass? Got a lot of padding in there. A lot of muscle … lot of muscle in that ass, boy.

INTERN A: You don’t want me to pull it out.

ANDREW MURR (CO-HOST): Yeah, I don’t either. I really don’t. I think we should just go.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: Hear me out. For the comedy of it, and also because that will hurt the least, I think we should shock you in the ass, at least at first.

INTERN: I think we should shock you.

WALSH: No, I don’t like that idea. What I do like is shocking you in the ass. So get over here.

INTERN: You’re not shocking my butt. 

MURR: And I do want you to put the old hardhat on. There we go. Does he not look amazing now?

WALSH: I’ll shock you in the stomach. All right? I’ll shock you in the stomach. Are you ready for this?

INTERN: No! No. I am not ready for this. 

MURR: I’m ready.

INTERN: This is not cool!

MURR: I’m totally ready for this.

WALSH: This is cool.

MURR: Matt, are you ready?

WALSH: I’m totally ready.

MURR: I’m totally ready. 

WALSH: As long as we’re ready, that’s all that matters.

MURR: That’s all that matters.

WALSH: Should I press it? Hold on a sec.

INTERN: Whoa. Oh no!

WALSH: Hold up. I’m not hitting it yet, I’m not hitting it, I’m not hitting it, but should I put it up against him like this? And then do it — is that how you do it?

(CROSSTALK)

INTERN: Oh, my God, I thought you were my friend.

CRANK: We are. That’s why we’re doing it.

WALSH: This is for your own good. This is for your own good, intern.

INTERN: I love you so much I’m hurting you.

WALSH: This hurts you more than it hurts me.

MURR: Yes it does. Oh God. I’m tingly with anticipation.

WALSH: One, two, three, go!

INTERN: Ow!

MURR: Did it shock you too?

WALSH: Wait, I only got like half a second.

INTERN: That’s all you’re supposed to get.

WALSH: Let’s try it one more time.

INTERN: That hurts.

MURR: You want me to hold onto you while we do it?

INTERN: That hurts.

MURR: Do you want me to hold onto you while we do it?

WALSH: Let’s try one more time. I dropped it. I didn’t get a good one.

INTERN: Not in the stomach anymore, because that hurts.

WALSH: All right, we’ll do it in the uhh —

INTERN: Chesticle.

WALSH: All right, in the chest. But this time we’re going in for the real thing!

INTERN: Wait, just do it in the arm. One, two, three, go.

WALSH: Hold on, hold on.

INTERN: Go! Ow!

WALSH: How bad does it hurt? Describe it.

INTERN: It’s like being muscle tenched.

MURR: What?

(Intern reaches for stun gun)

WALSH: Muscle tenched? I’m not giving you this thing, dude.

INTERN: Was it good for radio? You want to do it in the butt?

WALSH: I do, kind of. Let’s just try it once in the ass. Turn around. Ready?

MURR: I don’t even know if we can put this on the blog site.

WALSH: You’ve got a pimply, pale ass, bro.

INTERN: Go! Ow! Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow! All right, we’re done. That’s it. All right, good radio. You’re welcome, Delmarva. You’re welcome.

This was part of a series of videos of Walsh, Murr, the intern, and another man called “Tater” participating in a series of fraternity-style challenges, sometimes involving sexually suggestive behavior. In another video, “Intern A” was dressed in a diaper, wrestling a man who gave his name as “Tater.” In a video called “Intern A Earns His Name,” the titular intern was encouraged to lick the inside of a dumpster.

MATT WALSH (CO-HOST): He’s going to lick the inside of this dumpster. This dumpster has not been licked in years. So what it’s going to be is he’s going to sort of kneel down, put his tongue against the wall and then stand up.

A further video available on the old YouTube channel for Matt and Crank showed “the intern” washing a car in underwear while disco music played.

According to one report, Walsh announced his departure from The Matt and Crank Program just hours after recording his final episode on Monday, August 1, 2011, claiming that he wouldn’t be allowed to do further shows to say goodbye. The next day, he announced a two-week hiatus that he walked back the day after to let fans know that he’d be taking a job at WGMD, a smaller station in the region where he would work for less than a year. In December 2013 Walsh announced that he was “leaving radio forever” to spend more time with his blog. While Walsh spun this as voluntary, critics reported that WLAP’s programming director had said that the show had been canceled. After a period of time joining Matt at WGMD, reports say Walsh’s co-host returned to WZBH through 2015.

Additional Research by  JASON CAMPBELLMIA GINGERICH & ALEX PATERSON

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Ari Drennen is the LGBTQ program director for Media Matters, where she has worked since January 2022. She has a bachelors degree in political science and economics from Middlebury College. Previously she worked at the Center for American Progress and the League of Conservation Voters

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

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Minnesota

‘Nonpartisan’ Minnesota group launches ‘parental rights’ effort

The group rallied in front of the Minnesota state capitol caring signs with crossed out images of Pride flags and “CRT”

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Minnesota Parents Alliance Rally August 2022 (Screenshot/YouTube)

MINNEAPOLIS – A new group in Minnesota, the Minnesota Parents Alliance, claiming to be nonpartisan has launched an effort to gain “parental rights” on state school boards, partnering with anti-LGBTQ organizations and endorsing candidates who denounce Pride flags and critical race theory. 

The group, which was launched in February, says it’s a “statewide, non-partisan, parent-focused organization” that vows to ensure “every parent who wants to get involved in their child’s education has every resource they need to do so successfully.” According to the group’s website, its goal is to “[educate] and [empower] Minnesota parents to effectively engage in their school community as strong advocates for academic achievement, equality, and parental rights.”

“The parent movement is alive and well in Minnesota,” the Minnesota Parents Alliance tweeted ahead of its launch in February. “We’ve got work to do in ’22.”

However, the Minnesota Parents Alliance lists several Conservative groups under its “helpful organizations” tab, including the Child Protection League – which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. The Child Protection League generated extensive media coverage earlier this year after the Becker School District Board signed off on a plan to allow the organization to present the “other side” of the LGBTQ rights debate.

In August, according to MPR News, supporters of the group rallied in front of the Minnesota state capitol, some caring signs with crossed out images of Pride flags and “CRT” – referring to critical race theory, a graduate-level academic academic framework centering on the idea of systemic racism in the nation’s institutions. Critical race theory has become a buzzword in Conservative circles, encompassing any teaching of race and American history in schools.

Once a political after-thought, school boards in recent years have become a battleground over critical race theory, transgender inclusion and LGBTQ-themed books considered to be “inappropriate,” or even “pornographic.”

The organization has backed over 100 candidates for Minnesota school board in its “voter guide,” which states that the group “identifies and endorses school board candidates across the state who are aligned with our mission of prioritizing academic achievement, equality and parental rights in their school district.” 

The Los Angeles Blade reviewed the list of candidates, finding a lack of racial diversity. According to headshots on the group’s website – though several candidates are without identifying photos – the group has largely backed white candidates. Over one-fifth of the state’s population is represented by racial or ethnic minority groups, according to the latest U.S. Census data

The Minnesota Parents Alliance has not responded to multiple interview requests from the Blade. 

At the Aug. 4 rally, the group’s founder, Cristine Trooien, said her organization has been contacted by Democratic voters wanting to partner with the group. “[They say], ‘I am a left-leaning voter, I have always voted for Democratic candidates and what is going on in our schools right now is just unacceptable,’” she said, per MPR News.

“I think we saw last year a lot of inflammatory things happening at school board meetings and that’s not getting us anywhere,” Trooien said. “Dedicated school board members? That’s going to get us somewhere.” 

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Vermont

Mother of Trans student in Vermont says daughter was bullied 

The conflict contains all the elements of a classic culture-war story, and national right-wing outlets have glommed on to it

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Randolph Union High School (Photo Credit: Screenshot/WCAX CBS 3 Burlington, VT)

By Alison Novak | RANDOLPH, Vt. – On September 28, a mother in Randolph received a message from a friend with a link to a story on WCAX-TV’s website.

The local news station reported that the Randolph Union High School girls’ volleyball team had been banned from its locker room while school officials investigated a conflict involving an unnamed transgender athlete on the team. The friend asked the mother whether the piece was about her daughter, an openly transgender first-year student at the school. (The mother asked not to be named because of privacy and safety concerns.)

The mother viewed the video and immediately realized it was about a recent incident involving her daughter. The news report featured an interview with just one person — a girl on the team who said that a transgender teammate made an “inappropriate comment” while other girls were getting changed for practice. The girl told the WCAX reporter that “biological boys” should never be allowed in a girls’ locker room and that other teammates and parents had similar concerns.

The story cited a Vermont Agency of Education memo, titled “Continuing Best Practices for Schools Regarding Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students,” that says a student should not be made to use a locker room that conflicts with their gender identity.

The news report made the Randolph mother feel sick, she said, because it flew in the face of what her daughter told her had actually happened: that other players had harassed her. But in the days that followed, right-wing news outlets including Fox News, the New York Post, and OutKick parroted the WCAX report and turned it into viral clickbait.

Now, the transgender student is being openly bullied in school, the mother said, while the school district was forced to disable its website over the weekend after it was hacked and inundated with “hate speech, symbols and photographs targeting transgender individuals,” according to Orange Southwest Superintendent Layne Millington.

On Monday, the Randolph mother gave her account of what happened to Seven Days.

One week before the WCAX report aired, she said, her daughter was changing in the girls’ locker room before volleyball practice when three teammates started yelling at her to get out and to stop looking at them.Her daughter hadn’t encountered that kind of open negativity about being transgender since moving to Randolph in eighth grade, the mother said, so the aggressive comments came as a surprise. The girl had also previously changed in the same room as her teammates.

“She never really felt unwelcome or like she didn’t belong,” her mother said.

After being yelled at, the girl went into a locker room bathroom stall to change. She wasn’t sure if she was supposed to put on her team jersey, so she popped her head around the corner at one point to check with her teammates. The girls started yelling at her again.

When the transgender student walked into the gym after getting changed, she encountered the volleyball coach, who told the girl that she had overheard what had happened and was planning to report the incident to the school administration.

Two days later, an administrator called the mother to tell her that three people reported that her daughter had been bullied and harassed. As a result, the school was launching an investigation. The administrator also told the mother that the girls’ volleyball team could not be unsupervised in the locker room until the investigation was completed.

Superintendent Millington, who said he was unable to comment about the details of the investigation because of federal law protecting student information, confirmed part of the mother’s account in an email to Seven Days. The locker room was shut down “to ensure student safety while the investigation is conducted, and the shutdown applies equally to the entire team,” Millington wrote.

Administrators initially thought they would be able to keep the locker room open by finding people to supervise students, Millington said, but adults were reluctant to do so because of “false and escalating rhetoric on social media.”

After the mother saw the WCAX report last week, she stayed up all night, crafting a long email to the station’s news director, Roger Garrity, telling him that the outlet’s reporting was “aggressive, inaccurate, one-sided, and just altogether ugly.”

In an emailed reply the mother shared with Seven Days, Garrity wrote that the story was attempting to “explore whether the laws and policies meant to protect transgenderedstudents fail to offer resolution to what some people see as an inherent conflict: having children born of different sexes undressing in the same room.” He also apologized for the distress the issue was causing the mother and her daughter.

The next day, the mother got a call from the high school. Another student had showed her daughter the WCAX video, prompting her to go straight to the principal’s office. Her mother went to to pick up her daughter, whom she described  as “devastated” and “heartbroken.”

Throughout the saga, school administrators, teachers and counselors have been extremely supportive of her daughter, the mother said. However, she’s received unwelcome messages from community members on Facebook. In one, a man who identified himself as the father of the student interviewed on WCAX, wrote: “the truth is your son watched my daughter and multiple other girls change in the locker room. While he got a free show they got violated. you think this is fine and dandy, I wonder how you would feel if I watched you undress?”

The conflict contains all the elements of a classic culture-war story, and national right-wing outlets have glommed on to it. On Saturday, Fox News ran a story saying that volleyball players were banned from using the locker room “after some members objected to a biological male changing with them,” while the New York Post wrote that the players had gotten into “a dust up with a transgender athlete.”

Both media outlets noted that the Vermont Agency of Education has a policy that allows a transgender student to use the locker room that aligns with their gender identity.The Daily Signal, a news outlet run by the conservative Heritage Foundation, also published a lengthy article on Sunday, with more allegations attributed to unnamed members of the girls’ volleyball team. (The transgender girl’s mother denied the allegations.)

And Northfield Police Chief John Helfant, a Randolph parent, published a commentary on the right-wing website Vermont Daily Chronicle on Monday, asserting that “for a male student to view, watch a female student change her bra or underwear in a women’s locker room or bathroom” is a violation of the Vermont law against voyeurism.

The conflict drew the attention of transgender former Olympian Caitlin Jenner, who tweeted “Shame on Vermont!” for allowing “biological boys with penises changing next to our daughters in locker rooms, and then have our daughters scolded by the school.” She also went on the morning TV show “Fox & Friends” to discuss the controversy. Well-known evangelist Franklin Graham, meanwhile, wrote to his 10 million followers on Facebook that “this story from Vermont just leaves you shaking your head.”

In his role as executive director of Outright Vermont, Dana Kaplan consults frequently with administrators, educators, LGBTQ+ youth and their families about issues such as this one.

“In 2022, it’s not that unfamiliar that this kind of thing is happening, especially amidst the current hostile climate,” Kaplan said. “Ultimately, kids are trying to be kids. They’re trying to go to school. They’re trying to play sports. They’re trying to go to the bathroom. They’re trying to get changed.

“They’re going about their lives, and it’s the discomfort of outer circles of people — oftentimes politically motivated — that ultimately gets in the way and turns this into something … much bigger than any young person should have to navigate in their day-to-day life.”

The situation has certainly snowballed in Randolph. On Monday, the mother was called to pick up her daughter from school midway through the day because she was being called a “pervert” and “freak” in the lunchroom and hallways, she said. The mother said that her daughter was planning to stay home on Tuesday to reset and then return on Wednesday.

She said her daughter is torn because by not going to school, she feels like she is letting down other transgender and queer students — but she also knows she needs to take care of herself.The mother is hoping that national organizations such the American Civil Liberties Union and the Trevor Project take notice of her daughter’s story. She also wants WCAX to take more responsibility for its reporting.

“I feel like they have a moral and ethical duty to acknowledge the harm that they did and rectify it by doing some kind of educational piece on what transgenderism is,” the mother said.

In a statement to Seven Days on Monday night, WCAX news director Garrity wrote that the purpose of last week’s news report “was to examine a dispute over locker room usage and what state education policy has to say about it.” He said he believed the story accomplished that.  

“We are aware that this is an extremely sensitive topic that can evoke strong emotions,” Garrity continued. “As journalists, we can’t shy away from those conversations, but hope that our reporting will inform viewers and lead to better understanding.”

The transgender student has also written to Garrity to let him know how she feels.

“I am here to inform you that what was written about me is not truthful, I had never made inappropriate comments in the girls locker room nor outside of it. That is a lie,” she wrote in an email shared with Seven Days. “News is meant to inform but all you have done is enable lies that not only hurt me, but hurt the transgender youth that are within Randolph and Vermont.”

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Alison is the former managing editor at Kids VT, Seven Days’ parenting publication and writes about education for Seven Days.

You can email Alison at: [email protected]

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The preceding article was previously published by Seven Days, an independent weekly newspaper covering Vermont news and is republished by permission. 

Seven Days is an independent weekly newspaper covering Vermont news, politics, food, arts and culture. New issues are published each Wednesday and distributed free at 1,000 locations in Northern and Central Vermont and Plattsburgh, N.Y. The Seven Days website, sevendaysvt.com, includes breaking news reports, videos, up-to-date event listings and job postings.

Sign up for Seven Days’ email newsletters or follow on Facebook or Twitter.

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