What is a parent to do when suddenly discovering their local school board has approved a mandatory curriculum which directly challenges their Christian beliefs and values? Should parents be informed when radical new teachings are being introduced into the classroom and should there be an option to “opt out” of such programs or lessons? What happens when parents try to address these issues but feel as if their concerns are being ignored and they no longer have any authority over what their children are being taught in our public schools?
That’s the dilemma Matt and Marie Mierzejewski faced when discovering their oldest child was placed in an Albemarle Virginia School District pilot program where they believe students were instructed to ascribe to racist stereotypes and pressured to affirm critical race theory and, if they didn’t, would be labeled racists. The Mierzejewskis are parents of three children, including a high school student in Albemarle County, Virginia. They challenged the school district’s policies after discovering their children were being taught theories that went directly against their Christian beliefs.
Issues involving parental rights and free speech in our schools have become a hot topic across the country, said Ryan Bangert, senior counsel and VP of Legacy Strategy for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) which sponsored an informative NRB Forum called “Courage in Our Schools: When Parents and Teachers Take a Stand.”
The forum, held Wednesday morning, was moderated by Bangert with a focus on informing participants of the issues currently going on in public schools and assuring that ADF is committed to addressing these concerns. The forum featured a panel discussion with the Mierzejewski family, Monica Gill, a history teacher at Loudoun County High School, and Kate Anderson, senior counsel and director of ADF’s newly established Center for Parental Rights.
According to Bangert, the Center for Parental Rights was birthed out of a growing need for a focused response to the increase in societal threats parents are now facing as K-12 schools nationwide are “indoctrinating students in ideologies inconsistent with the faith and conscience of parents.”
Bangert opened the session with what he called an “all too familiar story.” He told of a family with a twelve-year-old daughter who was “becoming withdrawn and anxious” regarding her gender identity.
“She met with the school counselor who suggested she change her name and then referred her to a health center which determined she was experiencing gender confusion. The solution, according to the school counselor and the health care professional was to push her toward undergoing a medical transition to becoming a male. As the school counselor and the child moved in this direction, parents were not informed by the school. By the time the parents realized what was happening, they were told by school officials that they could not interfere with the school’s decision to address the child as a male,” Bangert said.
In this case, the parents were able to work with ADF to have recourse against the school district, the child recovered from her gender confusion, and a medical transition did not take place.
Panelist Monica Gill shared stories of being pressured by school officials in her district who required teachers to address students with new pronouns and new names. Gill, who has been a teacher for 27 years, recently joined two other teachers in her school district in a lawsuit challenging Policy 8040, which requires teachers to use pronouns that are inconsistent with a student’s biological sex. She is joined in this lawsuit by two other Loudoun County teachers, Tanner Cross and Kimberly Wright. These three teachers have asked the court to halt enforcement of this policy while the case continues in court.
Among the biggest concerns being addressed by ADF are free speech and the deconstruction of our society as it is being rebuilt on new ideologies and Marxist beliefs, said Bangert in a post-Forum interview.
Bangert also noted that it wasn’t until schools shut down due to COVID-19 in 2020 that parents were able to get a closer look at what their children were learning.
“As students began taking their classes online at home, many parents caught a glimpse of the information being taught . . . it isn’t just reading, writing and arithmetic anymore,” Bangert said.
Founded in 1984, ADF is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life. Since 2011, ADF has won 13 victories at the Supreme Court level and claims to have victory over nearly 80 percent of their cases in state courts. The alliance is a consortium of attorneys, pastors and ministry leaders, non-profit volunteers, and Christian business leaders. For more information on the Alliance Defending Freedom and their efforts to assist parents and teachers in our public schools, please visit https://adflegal.org.