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The Trojan Horse in Your School Board Race

The Trojan Horse in Your School Board Race

I'm worried that the "Kids Back" movement is possibly being co-opted by opportunists to get unwitting parents to vote them into power.

Laura Camacho
Laura Camacho

The opponents to the candidates I've endorsed in my Voting Guide for the Deschutes County Special Election of 2021 are members of "Schoolboard2021" – running on the same platform, and endorsed by the ED300 group, whose agenda is to serve the "30,000+ Oregonian parents advocating for getting students back to school full-time."

(Spoiler! Bend-La Pine kids are already back in school - the first large Oregon district to do so during the pandemic! But that doesn't stop the Big Feelings some people have about schools having been closed for the safety of our community during a global pandemic.)

What I find most disturbing about the four "Kids Back" candidates is that they have (really poorly made!) websites that look nearly identical and their "Priorities" all link to the same page on the Schoolboard2021 website.

Website homepage screenshots for Maria Lopez-Dauenhauer, Wendy Imel, Jon Haffner, and Gregg Henton. They all look basically the same.

I don't mind people using the same website template (I think it's bad praxis, but I am a big web design snob). But to not even write your own list of priorities, and instead all link back to the same exact list? What are you, the Borg?

In all appearances, it seems like an attempted coup of the Bend-La Pine school board by riding on the ginned up emotions of parents who have bought into the "Kids Back" movement and who will vote for anyone touting this single issue.

I think the "Kids Back" movement is possibly being co-opted by opportunists to get unwitting parents to vote with them on this single issue that they hold dear, in order to install politicians who will introduce an entire agenda that they hope their single issue voters will just ignore for the sake of getting "Kids Back" into the classroom.

Historical Sidenote

This co-opting is not without precedent. It is the same thing the Republicans did with the Pro-Life movement post-Roe v. Wade. They took a big, dramatic national conversation and reduced it down to two sides: Us vs. The Baby Killers. Of course, no good-hearted human being wants to be A Baby Killer, so a lot of innocent, good-hearted conservatives were primed to vote for anyone who said "I'm not a Baby Killer!"

Since most people don't do a lot of research into their candidates (the entire reason I started writing this Voting Guide!), they don't always see that just because someone claims to be "Pro-Life," they can also be extremely hostile to the wellbeing most post-fetal humans ("Pro-Life" candidates almost always are). Or, they make a conscious choice to not care about any policies beyond outlawing abortion.

You can read more about the history of the Anti-Abortion movement here and here. It makes me really mad how many well-intentioned conservative Christian people have been taken advantage of by this very cynical ploy.

I don't know who is behind the Bend-La Pine Schoolboard2021 group. Their website is run by United4Education, which according to OreStar is a miscellaneous political action committee based in Redmond. It's listed under the address of Alayna Weimer, who runs Ignite Positive Changes, an HR consulting service that offers campaign finance support, so I doubt she's the mastermind behind the school board takeover.

I hit a dead end in my research there, and unless someone wants to pay me my usual hourly discovery rate, I'm going to stop there!

The point is, while most of the Schoolboard2021's priorities are fairly uncontroversial, they're slipping some really disturbing rhetoric into the mix.

Their #1 priority is to get kids back into the classroom, and they list a lot of other things that at an un-nuanced surface level most of us generally agree are good for kids.

Here's the list:

  1. get kids back in the classroom  
  2. improve academic outcomes and introduce more trade school programs
  3. teach kids to "think creatively about solving complex problems, rather than the current focus on formulas and procedures" (and yet somehow also do better on standardized tests, which depends on formulaic and rote knowledge...?)
  4. [yikes]
  5. be preemptive about mental health issues
  6. demand "research-based classroom practices that encourage district-wide core competency expectations"
  7. [yikes]
  8. to see financial transparency and accountability

Priorities 4 and 7 are where things go off the rails.

Priority 7 is about "advocating for parents and their children," which sounds fine until you read that what they actually want is for opinions to be given as much credence as facts. This is a direct reference to the "Kids Back" controversy of 2020 - there were raging parents who just reallyreallyreallyreally wanted their kids back in school and they felt just as entitled to be decision-makers as the epidemiologists, virologists, and mental health professionals, with whom the state and then the school board was consulting.

Also in priority 7, the Schoolboard2021 candidates promise that they "will honor those who voted for us, because that's how it should work." Hmm. Well, that's not how democracy works, so what is this anti-democratic "it" that you are proposing?

Priority number 4 is where they really show their hand, though. It's really just a list of Far Right ideologies and thinly veiled white supremacist nationalist language. Read it for yourself and consider the following:

  1. Is there such a thing as being "de-politicized"? Or is that just what people say when they don't like the politics being presented?
  2. The militaristic language "battlefront" "culture war" is weird for a group demanding "unity," in the last sentence, right?
  3. They're running for school board on a single issue, promising to "honor those who voted for us" - doesn't that make them political activists as well?
  4. Wait, did they just call Black Lives Matter "angry and uninformed mobs, misguided and ill-suited for gainful employment and productive lives"?!
  5. There's an actual definition of social engineering but it's not what they mean here. What they mean here is that they don't like "political correctness gone mad!"
  6. Who do they mean by "we" and "our"? Who is implicitly included or excluded? (Remember their promise to honor only the 30,000+ families represented by ED300.)
  7. Why is their list of demands supposedly politically neutral? Why don't their's count as "special interests" as well?
  8. Is it really "restoring unity" when all you want to do is shut down conversations about "systems of oppression" and return to "foundational educational and national pride"?

If you're still with me, let's do another analysis. Read Schoolboard2021's Priority Number 4 below and compare it to the passage from the Northwest Front Handbook that follows.

4. Less Politics, More Learning

It’s time to de-politicize our schools.

For decades, co-opted and coerced by special interests and political activists, our classrooms have become the open battlefront for the culture war. With statues falling and historical figures being cancelled, we’re witnessing the tragic results on the streets. Angry and uninformed mobs, misguided and ill-suited for gainful employment and productive lives.

As students, our children shouldn’t be experiments in social engineering.

Instead of teaching them to dislike America, dismiss our heritage, distrust law enforcement, blame others, and detest those who have achieved financial success, they should be inspired to achieve greatness and share it with the world.

We’re witnessing an accelerated trend toward new learning standards that focus on “systems of oppression,” where teachers are evaluated on how engaged they become in political causes, rather than how much their students understand basic literacy and numeracy.

We’re not afraid and won’t be intimidated, and we know most parents feel the same. Eyes have been opened. We stand for them.

We believe it’s critical to get back-to-basics and common-sense in the classrooms: restoring unity and healing by focusing on foundational education and national pride.

e pluribus unum—out of many, one.

In my estimation, Schoolboard2021's Priority #4 is just a sanitized echo of this passage of the Northwest Front Handbook:

"The Northwest Republic acknowledges that the state bears a special responsibility to protect and promote our racial cultural heritage, and remove all alien influences from our art, our music, our literature, our drama and our cinema. This must be done in order that the innate artistic and cultural genius of our people can define and express itself without interference from the current Judæo-liberal forces that have seized cultural hegemony throughout the Western world."

It's crucial to see what is happening now, so we can head it off at the pass.

Conservatives groups have long been infiltrating local political positions – especially the school board, as it has so much influence on kids and families – so that they can stem the tide of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (derided as "political correctness," "wokeness," or "socialism"), which they see as a threat.

If you live in Oregon and haven't educated yourself on our egregiously white supremacist, viciously racist history, or know that the Pacific Northwest is supposed to turn into the last bastion of the white race, according to the Northwest Front, start doing your work.

These groups are actively working to make their agenda a reality, and since 2015 and the GOP's increasingly overt embrace of white supremacy and christofacist nationalism, they're feeling newly invigorated.

They've already gotten the conservative Christian homeschool movement to give themselves over to white nationalism wholesale. And now they're taking advantage of the pandemic to push run of the mill conservatives just a little bit farther toward their goals, particularly on school boards this year.

Delaware's current school board race is a prime example - they've got a PAC blatantly displaying a Gadsen ("Don't Tread On Me") flag, and their talking points are all pandemic-related: anti-masks, anti-vaccine mandates, and unequivocally "Kids Back."

I don't imagine that many – if any – of the Schoolboard2021 candidates realize that they're being used this way. I am not yet cynical enough to think the individuals in our Voters' Pamphlet entered the school board race with the conscious agenda to protect the Aryan race.

But, that's what is at the heart of this. I'm not overstating it.

Now go vote against them.


Despite declining invitations to local candidate forums, Lopez-Dauenhauer and Imel recently appeared on Fox News' Laura Ingraham's show to talk about their campaign.