Have your local school board meetings turned into incoherent shouting matches? Are grown adults snooping around in the children’s section of the library looking for hidden propaganda?
Sorry to say it: You might have a Moms for Liberty chapter – or a copycat organization – in your town.
Moms for Liberty is an extremist antigovernment organization that launched in Florida in 2021 and has established chapters from coast to coast, including four county-level chapters in Wyoming. They aren’t always moms, they don’t always have kids, and they definitely don’t care about “liberty” for everyone else.
We keep running into these folks across the state. They may seem small in number, but they have powerful allies, including State Superintendent Megan Degenfelder, who spoke at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver in July. Degenfelder echoed many of the same points made by Moms for Liberty Cofounder Tina Descovich, who also spoke at the conference.
Here are some signs to watch out for:
School district administrators are leaving
One of the most common Moms for Liberty tactics nationwide is to oust the superintendents of school districts when they take power. As The 74 reported in October, Moms for Liberty-controlled school boards have removed the superintendents in 9 of the 17 school districts they flipped nationwide in 2022.
The Laramie County School District 1 in Cheyenne — where Moms for Liberty-endorsed candidates tipped an already conservative board further to the right last fall — is among those that have seen recent superintendent turnover. Margaret Crespo stepped down in August after serving as chief for two years. She clashed with board members who wanted to restrict books with sexually explicit content from children unless their parents gave permission.
In Gillette, activists who gained seats on the Campbell County Library Board fired the library’s longtime director, Terri Lesley, allegedly for refusing to remove “pornographic” books.
White parents are mad about “critical race theory” but they can’t articulate why
Critical race theory is a graduate-level concept that isn’t taught in K-12 schools, but it frequently serves as shorthand in public discourse for “ideas that bother white people.” Moms for Liberty supporters are terrified of critical race theory, and they see it everywhere – in books with Black characters, in classrooms led by Black teachers, and in districts that consider diversity and equity as values worth pursuing.
They’re calling the cops on librarians
Moms for Liberty activists keep pushing a bogus legal theory: that teachers and librarians with books about LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people on their shelves should be prosecuted if their collections were found to contain “obscene” materials.
In 2021, a couple from Gillette filed a complaint with the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office over five books found in the library. The books are “This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson, “How Do You Make a Baby” by Anna Fiske, “Doing It” by Hannah Witton, “Sex is a Funny Word” by Cory Silverberg, and “Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy” by Andrew P. Smiler. Sheriff’s officials referred the matter to county prosecutors, who asked a prosecutor in a neighboring county to handle the matter to avoid a potential conflict of interest with fellow county officials at the library. The prosecutor didn’t file a case.
During the 2023 legislative session, a bill was filed that would allow librarians, as well employees of museums and schools, to be prosecuted if their collections were found to contain “obscene” materials. The bill died in committee.
Fortunately, a case was not filed against the librarian in Gillette and the bill died in committee. That doesn’t, however, mean that community support for such actions isn’t there.
One person is assigning educators a lot of pointless homework
A common tactic we’re seeing with Moms for Liberty and copycat organizations around Wyoming is that a small group, or even a single person, will spam the school district office with a list of books they’re scared of and want taken out of schools. These book banners don’t want to trust trained librarians to cultivate collections; they want to decide what all students — not just their own kids — can access.
They’ll quibble about the definition of “ban,” but the point is to take books off library shelves and out of classrooms. This creates chaos for students and it also creates a lot of unpaid work for teachers and librarians.
We didn’t start the recent wave of censorship and attacks on educators, but we’re sticking around until it’s over. Moms for Liberty are relative newcomers to political power, and Wyomingites of good conscience will outlast them.