When Moms for Liberty Cancelled a School Librarian’s Mother’s Day Lesson, Concerned Parents Fought Back

Here is what they said at the Hamilton County, Tennessee, school board meeting

Joel Bleifuss May 26, 2023

Earlier this month, Caroline Mickey, the librarian at Alpine Crest Elementary school in Hamilton County, Tennessee, sent a letter to parents of K-to-2 students. She wrote:

“With Mother’s Day approaching, I’d like to highlight this special role, but I am sensitive to the fact that not all students live with a mother. As such, I am planning a lesson that celebrates those who fill the motherly roles in our lives.”

The two books she wanted to read were Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer, about a girl with two fathers, and Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgens, about a bear who raises a gaggle of motherless goslings. She asked parents to contact her by May 5 if they “would like your student to receive an alternative assignment and location.”

Then Moms for Liberty—the national book-banning group founded by allies of Ron DeSantis, the GOP presidential hopeful and Florida governor—got wind of her lesson plan. On May 3, the local Moms for Liberty chapter published her letter on Facebook, asking their followers, “Aren’t these children too young for this?” In a letter “To All Stakeholders” published on Chattanoogan.com, Tonya Dodd, a Christian nationalist who is the Chapter Chair of Moms for Liberty Hamilton County TN, wrote:

“I was on the phone all night and have been all day with phone calls and responding to messages from people who are not in support of this and expect their representatives to do something about it. … As elected officials, you know you are appointed by God and you should be doing everything you can to keep children safe in their learning environment. I do not see this from many of you at all, and I personally, as well as the people I represent, am looking to hear from you on specific issues including LGBTQ curriculum and clubs in schools, as well as teachers who are promoting it. The community is interested in hearing about topics that include Social Emotional Learning (Cultural Marxism) and the failing DEI [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] initiative.”

Rebecca Day of Moms for Liberty Hamilton County TN, told the Hamilton County School Board that Mother Bruce part of a school librarian’s “Mother’s Day lesson about the LGBTQ lifestyle.”

The pressure was on and Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Justin Robertson caved. In a letter to Tonya Dodd, published on the local Moms For Liberty Facebook page, he wrote:

“Tonya,

Thanks for the email. We were made aware of this issue just this morning and have addressed it with the administration at Alpine Crest. I agree that there are better book choices that could be used and this lesson plan has been cancelled at Alpine Crest.

Thanks!

JR”

But that wasn’t enough for Moms for Liberty Hamilton County TN, which had previously advised parents to home school their children, writing on their website: “We strongly encourage and hope to get as many children out of the public schools as possible!” (The group recently deleted this advice.) Crying “discrimination” against heterosexual parents, Moms for Liberty Hamilton County TN took to Facebook to fan the flames. What they accomplished, however, was to mobilize, another local group, Moms for Social Justice.  

On May 11, supporters of the two groups went head to head at the Hamilton County School Board monthly meeting. Here is some of what was said during the public comment section of the meeting:

Rebecca Day, Moms for Liberty Hamilton County TN:

“A local public servant contacted Moms for Liberty about a note that was sent home to parents of K through 2 students. This note advised a Mother’s Day lesson about the LGBTQ lifestyle which was planned by the librarian. …. The lesson plan was cancelled by [superintendent] Dr. Robertson agreeing that there are better book choices. … One mother said she will be removing child from this school because this was the last straw with this librarian. …

“Some comments from the community about this situation. …

“‘Schools need to get back to the basics instead of causing outrage and hate among community members, unless that’s the point. It’s obviously not about the kids.’

“‘How will Hamilton County keep this from happening again? Will librarians now just hide their lesson plans and not inform parents?’

“‘Someone should start auditing the libraries—submit open records request on all librarians’ emails. Find out if they are communicating with far left activists or elected officials to plan this discrimination.  Maybe Moms for Liberty can start a library scorecard, share a list with each school name, rate how woke and weaponized the librarian is.'”

Angela Favaloro, mother of two students attending district schools and an organizer for Moms for Social Justice:

“The books that were to be shared have been accessible at Alpine Crest Elementary for nearly a decade and were logged and online. These books are well known for tackling blended families, adopted families, foster families, or any family that doesn’t fit perfectly into a box. All students, families and educators deserve to be respected and feel valued.”

Stefani Dalton, mother of Alpine Crest student:

“Instead of backing Mrs. Mickey up, you let the bullies win. When you let the bullies win, they’re going to keep bullying. 

“I understand these adult bullies have intimidated and incited an ungodly amount of hate in our community, but you, HCS leadership and admin, must show them that you have a zero tolerance policy for bullying. 

“When you have a board policy that states you expect all students to treat each other with civility and respect and students are expected to behave in a way that does not interrupt the education of other students, and then you let grown adults bully one of your educators and you let them interrupt the education of our students, you’re teaching the community that you don’t actually mean what you say.

“You must show these adult bullies that you will not allow them to censor learning opportunities for children, because when you as a district say that your just cause is that all children thrive and experience a future without limits, but then you censor learning, you are already putting limits on their futures. 

“And when you as a district and these bullies in the community throw out this rhetoric about parents’ rights but then steal other parents’ rights way, what lesson are you teaching? I am an actual parent of an actual student at Alpine Crest and my parental right to choose whether or not my child got access to this learning opportunity was stolen from me.

“What about my rights? Why wasn’t my voice heard before you decided to cancel this lesson?

“I’ll finish with this. My child repeats this pledge at school every day: ‘I’m respectful. I’m responsible and caring. I am ready to learn. I have Tiger pride.’

“You know what other lesson Alpine Crest students learn? ‘Don’t be a bystander, be an upstander, and support and protect your peers against bullying.’

“I think HCS leadership and admin would benefit from learning that lesson. Let’s hope you don’t decide to cancel that one too.”

Jessica Perkins, Moms for Liberty Hamilton County TN:

“I am here to address topics of a sensitive nature. …

“When a teacher is allowed to hang a LGBTQ flag in their classroom, they are making a statement about themselves. Their statement says, “Showcasing my identity is more important than you.” Where will you draw the line with personal, religious, and political idols in the classroom? What happens when a teacher wants to hang their pedophile flag in their class? Would that be okay with you? …

“These activists have an agenda. It will be very clear as our precious elementary students become brainwashed that they are in the wrong body. We have a problem in our country with young children being fed lies about themselves by influencers. These influencers are not only on social media anymore they are also in our schools posing as teachers …

“You cannot dress up your evil agendas in pretty words and expect all parents to follow along like sheep to the slaughter. …”

Colleen Keogh, mother of an Alpine Crest student:

“I’m extremely disappointed in the way an inclusive Mother’s Day lesson was canceled and my kid’s librarian has been vilified.

“I knew there would be push back from a few loud bullies but I’m enraged that the administration sided with them. …

“A majority of families have been denied an important lesson in our increasingly diversified world, and a platform was given to a group of fear mongering extremists. This group claimed that a story about a bear is pushing trans ideology and a story about a girl feeling left out during Mother’s Day is pushing a homosexual agenda. They say this is sexualization of children when they’re the only ones that brought sex into it.

“The only agenda I’m seeing play out is that of Moms for Liberty …. a well-funded and connected political group that preys on vulnerable people with manufactured outrage in the guise of protecting children. 

“I’m here right now to protect my children from them.

“With financial and political support from the DeSantis family who are criminalizing Florida educators for teaching factual history and discussing current events, Betsy Devos who wants to dismantle the Department of public Education, Publicx [supermarket heiress] Julie Fancelli who funded the Stop the Steal rally and led the insurrection on our nation’s capital, and the Zieglers [Bridget and Christian] who pose with Proud Boys displaying white power symbols and co-wrote [Florida’s] harmful Don’t Say Gay bill.

“I’d have to strongly disagree that this group cares about the safety of all kids. [Breaks into tears.] Their affiliation with the Council for National Policy that wants to take down teacher unions and public education in order to reorient education to Christian nationalism, plus their affiliation with NRA and conservative money, make them a very real and dangerous threat to public education and safety. …

“The motivation behind the cancellation of a compassionate literacy lesson sends a message to minorities and LGBTQ families that their existence is unacceptable. It is not news to kids with gay parents that they have gay parents. Homosexuality is not synonymous to pedophilia. And teaching kids about other types of families is not indoctrination. By shielding your kids from love that looks different than yours, you’re turning them into bullies and crippling them from living successfully in a diverse world. …”

Hamilton County School Superintendent Justin Robertson told Moms for Liberty, “I agree that there are better book choices that could be used and this lesson plan has been cancelled at Alpine Crest.”

Joshua Ewing, father of an Alpine Crest student:

“I’ve never seen them [Moms for Liberty members] shoveling mulch, putting up swing sets, painting door frames. You know, we can all be seagull managers and who fly over and poop on everything. We’re here in the trenches. We’re here with these children. ….

“But if every book we read to them has a heterosexual white man and women in a couple, that doesn’t identify to everyone. This is 2023. I’m a Christian man married to a woman—and I am sorry if I get off course here—but I think everyone should be represented fairly. …

“If you want to keep your kids in a closet and just shelter them from everything, there’s opportunities for that. There is. Home school them. Put them in a Christian school. This is a public school for everyone! Everyone! …

“What are we doing to these kids? This is our world. We can’t pretend it is something it’s not. …

“Paint all the walls gray, read them all the same books, and we’ll all be programed to be all the same exact way. You know that’s not America. We came here for freedoms. …

“Worship your god. Do whatever you want to. Don’t force that on anybody. Let’s get a little taste of everything in the public school system, where it is for everyone.”

What happened in Hamilton County is not a new development. Moms for Liberty groups have been attacking school librarians across the country since the group was founded in January 2021. What makes the Hamilton County story different, and why it made national news, was that another local group stood up to them—Moms for Social Justice. This small but growing group with chapters in six cities, was founded in Hamilton County in 2017, in the wake of August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia

Angela Favaloro, one of the parents who testified at the Hamilton County School Board’s public comment period, is the Organizer & Policy Advocate at Moms for Social Justice, a volunteer position. She told Barn Raiser:

“As a progressive parent in Tennessee, you sometimes feel like you are on an island. It is isolating to be in a markedly red state. Our state legislature and our local conservative radical organizations are so inflammatory that no one wants to deal with the noise. But Moms for Social Justice have found that almost all the places we go into there are a lot of people who want sensible democratic processes, who want to lift up people who need it most. Years down the road, will you want to look your kids in the eye and say, ‘Well, I posted about it on Facebook’? No. You will want to say, ‘We organized and looked for ways to get active in the community with other parents in these fights for social justice.’ “

Joel Bleifuss

Joel Bleifuss is Barn Raiser Editor & Publisher and Board President of Barn Raising Media Inc. He is a descendent of German and Scottish farmers who immigrated to the Upper Midwest in the 19th Century to become farmers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas. His grandmother was born in the Scottish Highlands to parents listed in the Census of Great Britain, 1881 as “farm servants” on land owned by the Duke of Fife. Joel himself was born and raised in Fulton, Mo., a small town on the edge of the Ozark Highlands. He got his start in journalism in 1983 as a feature writer and Saturday reporter/photographer for his hometown daily, the Fulton Sun. Bleifuss joined the staff of In These Times magazine in October 1986, stepping down as Editor & Publisher in April 2022, to join his fellow barn raisers in getting Barn Raiser off the ground.

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