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Tiffany Justice, left, and Tina Descovich

Screenshot from WOGX-TV

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Moms for Liberty, a conservative "parental rights" organization strategically harassing school board members, teachers, and administrators across the country, is deeply tied to anti-civil rights advocacy. Beyond opposing education about the history of racism in America, the organization also recommends reading an American history book by a far-right conspiracy theorist that is sympathetic to slave owners, and the co-founder of the organization actively opposed desegregation efforts while formerly serving on her school board.

The organization's staunch opposition to teaching "critical race theory" (CRT) perfectly fits in with its connection to anti-civil rights advocacy. CRT is actually a body of specific academic and legal scholarship, but this group and others have self-servingly (and incorrectly) rewritten the definition to essentially encompass any discussion of race or oppression.

Now, Moms for Liberty appears to be revamping its anti-civil rights movement under the guise of "parental liberty" — a seemingly innocuous term that is really a catch-all for opposition to equity in public education.

Moms For Liberty Opposes CRT

Moms for Liberty co-founder Tina Descovich has claimed that the group actually has not "taken a stance on CRT," saying that its goal is simply to "empower parents to stand up and reclaim their parental rights at all levels of government" and that it tries to "support our local chapters and things that they're fighting for."

But a June article in the far-right Epoch Times reported that "Descovich believes that CRT is divisive" and "denies the value of an individual based on the content of their character and their actions." The national group's official social media pages have repeatedly posted anti-CRT content, including "#StopCRT" hashtags as recently as October 14.

As of June 13, the group's website had an anti-CRT page titled "Help Moms for Liberty Stop Critical Race Theory"; it has since been deleted. The group had another since-deleted page titled "Mama Lions are Waking Up" which described CRT as a "nationwide battle that is coming to a district near you" and recommended anti-CRT resources. Moms for Liberty even tried to solicit donations through anti-CRT messaging — "Donate Here to Help us Fight Critical Race Theory."

It appears that Moms for Liberty is attempting to rebrand and wipe anti-CRT resources and statements from its public website -- while its continued anti-CRT advocacy tells a different story.

Moms for Liberty chapters are broken down by counties, and those county chapters often hold anti-CRT events. In Williamson County, Tennessee, the chapter hosted "CRT 101," inviting speakers who claim to have previously taught CRT and now "repudiate" it.

Robin Steenman, head of the Williamson County Moms for Liberty Chapter, vocally opposes CRT, saying, "Critical race theory claims to solve racial discrimination by promoting racial discrimination. It is based on inherently racist assumptions and views virtually every situation through the lens of race." She also described CRT as "destructive and divisive" and "used to plant seeds that oppression and racism are everywhere."

The same county chapter created a list of "books of concern," opposing the teaching of Martin Luther King Jr. and the March to Washington because of "photographs of political violence" and Ruby Bridges Goes To School because of "racist remarks" among other things. The group also disapproved of First Nations of North America: Plains Indians because it "paints white people in a negative light."

Moms for Liberty Recommends Text By Slavery Sympathizer, Conspiracy Theorist

Nationally, Moms for Liberty recommends The Making of America by W. Cleon Skousen as a "helpful" text "when discussing the founding documents" of the United States.

Skousen's The Making of America makes the argument that "slavery is not a racial problem," claiming:

In the history of the world, nearly every nation has had slaves. The Chinese kept thousands of slaves. Babylon boasted of slaves from a dozen different countries.
The dark-skinned Hittites, Phoenicians, and Egyptians had white slaves. The Moors had black slaves. America had black slaves. The Nazis had white slaves. The Soviets still do, with several million white slaves wearing out their starved, near-naked bodies in slave labor camps.
So the emancipation of human beings from slavery is an ongoing struggle. Slavery is not a racial problem. It is a human problem.

Skousen's book is also sympathetic to slave owners, calling them "the worst victims" and writing that "in some ways, the economic system of slavery chained the slave owners almost as much as the slaves." Skousen himself was a supporter of the John Birch Society, an anti-civil rights organization that claimed the "African-American freedom movement was being manipulated from Moscow with the goal of creating a 'Soviet Negro Republic' in the Southern United States."

He was also an extreme conspiracy theorist, as Mother Jones reported, claiming that "a global cabal of bankers controlled the world from behind the scenes" and "communists were taking over local PTAs." Even more, Skousen believed that "the civil rights movement, acceptance of homosexuality, the rise of abstract art and modernism, and the advent of Medicare, Social Security, and other safety-net programs have all been part of a clandestine plot waged by Communists or other dark forces to destroy the United States."

(The group's "Madison Meetup" kit also includes material from Skousen's son, Paul, to use for "discussion prompts and questions.")

Moms for Liberty Leader Opposed Desegregation And Harassed School Board Members

Moms for Liberty has also strategically harassed public school officials, most notably Jennifer Jenkins, a Brevard County School Board member who unseated co-founder Descovich. Jenkins traced harassment in her district, which consisted of violent threats, and even a false report to the Florida Department of Children and Families wrongly accusing her of child abuse, back to the beginning of Moms for Liberty protests during school board meetings.

Co-founder Tiffany Justice, a former Indian River County School Board member, attempted to interfere with and "intimidate" her district's African American achievement committee and was criticized by the NAACP. Justice allegedly took "over direction of committee meetings and altered agendas while failing to clarify that she speaks as a private citizen, using her clout to direct school staff on the committee while ignoring citizen volunteers' recommendations."

The Indian River County School Board has been under a desegregation order since 1967. In 1994, the county's NAACP chapter brought the district back to court over unmet desegregation standards. In 2017, the board had still not met the court ordered desegregation criteria. In 2018, it came to a partial agreement with the NAACP in which the court would no longer "oversee integration of school facilities, the ratio of black non-teaching staff to white, and the ratio of black administrators to white administrators." The agreement also reduced NAACP "oversight of the desegregation process."

After this agreement was reached, in an effort to ensure that the district had a racially diverse population, the board considered "rezoning portions of the district" because it had become "increasingly segregated." Justice opposed busing students in, arguing, as Vero News put it, that it would be "costly and create discomfort" among parents.

Indian River County's school district has both academic and disciplinary racial achievement gaps, according to the district's African American Achievement Plan. The report notes that Black students receive higher rates of suspension than white students and have lower education performances.

Justice has also been an outspoken critic of CRT, claiming that it "creates a hostile culture in our schools and damages students' intellectual growth."

Taken together, the group's anti-CRT advocacy, conspiratorial reading list, and opposition to desegregation show the malicious anti-civil rights intent behind Moms for Liberty's campaign for so-called "parental rights" in education.

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