ST. PAUL — A new group calling itself the Minnesota Parents Alliance rallied in the state capitol on Thursday. Dozens of supporters showed up for the rally. Some carried signs with images of crossed out LGBTQ flags, or crossed out “CRT” (Critical Race Theory) flags as well as signs of school board candidates.
John Anderson, who is running for a seat on the Elk River School Board, was one of many to speak at the rally.
“You see indoctrination creeping into the school system,” Anderson said. “I said, ‘Wait.’ I retired and decided to run for the school board.
The other members of the group came from Osseo, Lakeville, Forest Lake, Owatonna, Stillwater and several other districts. They focused their speeches on a number of conservative issues and raised concerns about critical race theory, sex education and gender expression.
Cristine Trooien, mother of three children, launched the group. She started homeschooling her preschoolers during the pandemic. But when she saw her district implementing equity-focused programs, she said it made her want to keep her kids home until things changed.
“Our district has adopted what’s called a cultural competency plan and I read this and thought, ‘You know what, these aren’t messages I want my young kids to see,'” a declared Trooian.
Trooien, who says her group is non-partisan, has partnered with several conservative organizations to launch her group. Among them are the Center of the American Experiment and the Child Protection League – which advocates for the removal of comprehensive sex education from schools as well as opposing policies and programs designed to make schools safe for LGBTQ students.
“Conservatives seem to be the only ones receptive to our message,” Trooien said. “I am a leftist voter, I have always voted for Democratic candidates – if there are Democratic candidates who want to support parents and support parental rights, we will welcome them.”
Trooien said his group has trained dozens of parents to run for local district councils and currently has 100 “mission-aligned” parents running to run in upcoming council elections.
As Minnesota schools in recent years have taken steps to address longstanding systemic racial disparities in the classroom, some have been met with concern or outrage from parents — many of whom are white. Other parents have voiced their frustrations about COVID-19 masking policies at board meetings.
Last year’s board elections saw a higher than usual number of special elections, many of which were fueled by board members resigning en masse – in some cases following interactions controversial with parents and community members over masking policies and critical race theory.
“I think we saw a lot of inflammatory things happen at school board meetings last year and it’s not getting us anywhere,” Trooien said. “Dedicated members of the school board? It’s going to take us somewhere.
Minnesota already has several organizations focused on involving parents in schools, including the Parent Teacher Association.
The Minnesota School Boards Association said district boards have always welcomed parental input into public schools, have dozens of formal opportunities to communicate with parents, and that 99% of people currently serving on school boards are parents.
“Our school board and school districts are doing a lot to encourage and strengthen parenting partnership today. I don’t know if it’s all seen or fully understood,” said Minnesota School Boards Association executive director Kirk Schneidawind. “We welcome discussions about how we can improve this, but at the same time, we believe that opportunities for parental input exist today for districts.”
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