Historic gains in parents’ rights are at risk in these Kansas school board elections on Tuesday

Hard-won, even historic, gains for parents’ rights are at risk in Tuesday’s Nov. 7 elections in the Lansing, Kansas, school district, warns a school board member there.

The election for four school board seats will determine whether the Lansing Unified School District 469 Board of Education retains a conservative majority. It’s now 4-3, but two of the four conservatives aren’t running for re-election.

“We were the first in the state – and one of the first in the country, as far as a local school district – to pass their own Parents’ Bill of Rights,” says conservative Lansing school board member Amy Cawvey. “We did that [after] the governor vetoed our Legislature’s Bill of Rights. So, we decided to do it ourselves here locally.”

The district’s bill of rights is in some ways stronger than the state’s would have been, she says, citing a ban on students’ preferred pronouns or gender transition being kept secret from parents.

The board also passed a policy prohibiting sexually explicit and graphic materials in libraries and classrooms – since many teachers keep small book collections in their rooms. Parents may now inspect the district for such materials online as well.

Cawvey also discovered that the Pledge of Allegiance wasn’t being recited at the high school. And when it was reinstated, there were no flags to pledge to – so students recited it to an image on a tablet. After starting the process of trying to acquire some flags for the classrooms, it was discovered there were U.S. flags put in school storage for some reason.

The conservative majority on the board also reversed a former policy of denying paid COVID-19 leave to staff who weren’t vaccinated, and ordered back pay for those who’d been denied it.

On the curriculum front, Cawvey says, “We had a five-week unit in English Language, of all things, in the high school that was being devoted solely to social justice, which included biased materials, critical race theory [and] sexually explicit graphic materials. A parent challenged it and we ended up removing it.”

Fiscally, Cawvey says, “For the first time in 15 years, we have stayed revenue neutral. We did not raise property taxes, despite the increase in property valuations.”

All of that and more will be at risk in Tuesday’s election, she cautions. Indeed, she says, at least one candidate in Tuesday’s election has chastised the parent who submitted the curriculum challenge; lamented the “banning” of books – even though they’re merely reviewed for age appropriateness; and supported returning LGBTQ “safe” stickers to district walls, although the Kansas Association of School Boards has advised against such political posters.

“If we don’t stand up for parents and win this election, then that’s all at risk,” Cawvey says.

Though she’s not up for election this year, Cawvey does have a dog in one fight: Her husband Bryan is running.

The other three conservative candidates in Tuesday’s race for Lansing Board of Education are Andy Burris, Kirsten Workman and Sean DeSouza.

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