Kansas school district defends sending flier from progressive group fighting for ‘menstrual equity’

(The Sentinel) — Leavenworth Unified School District 453 distributed a flier to parents recently announcing a day-long event at the State Capitol ostensibly to introduce students to the legislative process, meet with elected officials, and tour the Capitol with the intention of increasing their civic participation.

The organizers, Loud Light, described the event as nonpartisan, but a closer look at their website and schedule of events for young people indicates a progressive agenda seeking youthful supporters.

An examination of the QR code on the flier advertising KC Metro Day at the Statehouse reveals:

“Are you a Johnson or Wyandotte County resident that cares about creating a better Kansas for young people? Join us in the state capitol to advocate for the causes young Kansans care about the most during our Johnson and Wyandotte Day at the Capitol. During our fun filled day we will meet with local legislators, tour the capitol building, and advocate for our collective beliefs.”

The ”causes” and “collective beliefs” are undefined. However, a recent event sponsored by Loud Light had a clear agenda:

February 7, 2024. 9:00 AM  3:00 PM. Kansas State Capitol, Capitol Visitors Center,  201 SW 8th Avenue, Topeka, KS 66603Join Loud Light at URGE’s Period Day of Action! This year we’re building young people power to bring menstrual equity to Kansas. The day consists of issue briefings, trainings, and meeting with your lawmakers. By signing up, you are agreeing that URGE, Loud Light, and Loud Light Civic Action may contact you via email, phone, or text message.

URGE stands for Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, and defines its mission on its website:

“We’re fighting for a liberated world where we can live with justice, love freely, express our gender and sexuality, and define and create families of our choosing.”

Photo courtesy of URGE website

Other events scheduled in February by Loud Light include another day at the Capitol, workshops to teach participants to write legislative testimonies, a legislative day discussing issues facing African-Americans, and sessions of Community Action Teams defined as:

“to plan actions that make a positive impact on the political landscape and build political power for young Kansans!”

An affiliate of Loud Light is “New Frontiers”. From its webpage it is apparently seeking to serve the Hispanic community, with its mission:

“Redefining the issues that impact young folks in southwest Kansas, centered around the needs of those most marginalized through a social justice lens of historic and current racial and economic inequity.”

In an email exchange with Jake Potter, director of public relations for the Leavenworth School District, Melissa Stiehler, advocacy director for Loud Light, sought to address community concerns about her organization and mission:

“Loud Light is a Kansas based, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that supports and builds the civic engagement and leadership of young people in our state. One of the ways we do this is by hosting small groups of young people from across the state at the capitol during legislative sessions.

“On March 14th, we are hosting Girls Lead Co., which is also a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with the goal of empowering young women to become confident leaders and politicians through public speaking, networking, and confidence-building initiatives. During this statehouse day, we will teach them about the legislative process, including meeting with legislators from both political parties for general meet and greets, for the participants to ask questions, for the legislators to talk about what it’s like to be in public service, etc. I anticipate that these meetings will be very friendly and the goal of them is to demystify elected officials and the state legislature so participants can feel confident in how to engage in civic life after attending.

“We’ve been hosting meetings like this for a few years and tailor the agenda to fit the organization we’re hosting. We’ve previously hosted students from schools in Wyandotte, Wichita, St. Mary’s, Manhattan, Dodge City, Garden City, and more.”

Potter defended USD 453’s transmission of the fliers to parents, and The Sentinel’s description to him of the March 14 event as a “rally”:

“First, I must object to the mis-categorization of the event you are referencing (flier link) as a ‘rally’ of any kind.  The ‘Day At The Capitol’ event is described as a full day civic engagement and student learning experience at the statehouse which includes meetings with local legislators, a tour of the Capitol building, and takes place during our Spring Break.

“In the clearest terms possible, USD 453 did not approve and distribute an e-flier promoting a political rally.

“Outside groups all have the ability to submit community-based information via our Peachjar e-flyer distribution system, linked at the bottom of our website, and titled “School Flyers.” There is a Sign-Up button, and you would designate yourself as a Parent/Guardian or a Community Organization. Information can be uploaded digitally, and distribution requests can be specified by the grade level contacts of parents/guardians most appropriate for a respective event (e.g., individual school-based, district-wide/to all families, etc.).

“Each flyer has a footnote disclaimer that reads as follows: Our district approves fliers from organizations as a community service and does not imply sponsorship nor endorsement of this program or event. Please contact the organization directly for additional information.” 

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