Starting this week, GSI is encouraging parents to submit an opt-out form the group has created to be added to their students’ files as part of their nationwide “Operation Opt-Out” efforts.
This is the latest battle in the right-wing struggle for parents’ rights against schools that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, with activists opposing health measures such as masks in schools.
In Michigan, several groups have formed in recent years targeting schools to teach LGBTQ+ issues, critical race theory, social-emotional learning, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Many activists have GOP ties and got involved in 2022 school board races across the state with varying degrees of success. Top Republican candidates, including failed gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon, also made banning books and passing a Florida-style “don’t say gay” law a top priority, but that failed to gain traction. Democrats swept all the top offices and flipped the House and Senate.
Efforts to ban books deemed “pornographic” by these groups from public schools also continued into the new year. Schools in the Milan area earlier this month.
Sexual debates are starting to gain momentum as the state grapples with access to reproductive health care
The opt-out form, which contains spelling errors, requires the student to be excluded from “any and all instruction on gender ideology, the physiological (including endocrinological), psychological, and functions of reproductive health in relation to human sexuality. This opt-out includes, but is not limited to: gender identity, gender expression, gender assignment, sexual identities, sexual expression, sexual attraction, sexual orientation [sic]gender fluidity, transition and expicit [sic] sexual activity or behavior.”
Michigan law already allows parents to opt their children out of sex education.
Brittnee Senecal, a Jackson County parent and member of Michigan Parent Alliance for Safe Schools (MIPASS), a national parent organization that supports public schools and safe personal learning, said GSI “is trying to sabotage our kids’ futures by pushing an agenda it belongs in the 19th century.”
“What every parent and member of the school community should know is that ‘don’t say gay’ policy and other so-called ‘parental rights’ efforts will harm people and endanger the health and safety of children,” Senecal said. “The efforts of these hate groups will also exacerbate a range of real-world challenges affecting young people and their families, including teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and other healthcare-related realities.”
GSI was founded in September by three Michiganders: Monica Yaatooma, a Republican who unsuccessfully ran for Oakland County Commissioner; Matthew Nelson, a Grand Rapids lawyer; and Nathan Pawl, an entrepreneur from Walled Lake.
But the address provided to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulation (LARA) for each of the founders is associated with a Chicago-based law firm, the Thomas More Society, which has regularly intervened on right-wing issues in Michigan and in the United States. whole country .
In February The Thomas More Society threatened to sue the taxpayer against Walled Lake Schools and Oakland County if the school mask mandate was not revoked. Within a week, Oakland County dropped the mask mandate.
The company also opposed Bill 2 of 2022, which expanded voting rights in Michigan, and Bill 3 of 2022, which enshrined abortion rights in the Michigan Constitution.
At a GSI meeting on Thursday, which was later made public YouTubesaid Pawl that if hundreds of parents send opt-out forms to their schools, “all of this will change because it will be too much for them.”
MI Parental OPT-OUT NOTICE 1.9
“And with the ability for us to file lawsuits, we’ve set up a whole system in many different places at the same time. We think we can make a really strong move with this,” added Pawl.
With a ban list nearly three pages long, the opt-out form requires schools to ban information related to reproductive health, family planning, birth control, and LGBTQ+ and social justice.
Under state law, all Michigan schools already offer opt-out forms for parents to fill out that would exclude students from part or all of the district’s sex education curriculum.
However, the GSI opt-out form goes one step further to exclude students from what they call “rogue states,” including school-affiliated sororities that support LGBTQ+ students, display pride flags at schools or faculty, and staff soliciting students pronouns, among many other things.
LGBTQ+ inclusive groups and efforts provide support and social activities for students. However, right-wing activists have argued without evidence that anything that supports LGBTQ+ students should be considered sexual in nature and have also smeared teachers as “groomers.”
Erin Knott, executive director of Equality Michigan, said she is concerned about the impact of these efforts on the mental health and safety of LGBTQ+ youth.
“Inclusive curriculum, coupled with a comprehensive non-discrimination and anti-bullying policy at the school level, as well as supportive educators and access to gay or straight gay alliances is what makes LGBTQ+ youth successful and feel they belong in their elementary, middle or high school ,” Knott said. “LGBTQ+ youth who see their full selves or identity reflected in the classroom and corridors have higher levels of education and better mental health.”
Pal said the Thomas More Law Society is willing to provide “a significant amount of resources” for legal support, including taking legal action against school districts that reject GSI-initiated opt-out requests or fail to meet eligibility criteria report for either regular sex education, “rogue sex ed” or both.
To get enough parents to flood schools, Pawl called for an organized effort from several “parental rights” groupssuch as Moms for Liberty, Let Them Be, formally known as Let Them Play, and other similar groups that have popped up all over the state in recent years.
“If we can create this statewide movement of simultaneous action, we believe we can unite all these different groups,” Pawl said. “We can give a boost to all of these groups throughout the month of February and really encourage parents that they are not alone.”
There are already links between GSI and other groups. Katie MacFarland, Oakland County President Mothers for freedom — a right-wing parent rights group with GOP ties founded in Florida that got involved in local school board races last year — spoke at the GSI meeting on Thursday. She explained that she joined GSI because of Thomas More’s efforts at Walled Lake.
Jayme McElvany, the founder of Let Them Be who recently made headlines for reading pornography of Penthouse at a school council meeting in Milan this month, also promoted the GSI meeting on Facebook and encouraged others to attend.
McElvany also led efforts with then-Let Them Play to sue the state to end COVID-19 restrictions on high school sports. The lawsuit was unsuccessful, but the state lifted the restrictions soon after.
She was also seen at a rally for failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Garrett Soldano, who is running for co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party and has remained active in the parental rights movement.
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