Oklahoma Moms for Liberty want more involvement in education

OKLAHOMA CITY — Leaders from Moms for Liberty chapters in Oklahoma met Wednesday at the Capitol to participate in a parents’ rights rally and advocate for moving school board elections.

After a rally with several other groups in the Governor’s Blue Room, Moms for Liberty members were among those who were armed with an informational flier to talk with legislators about Senate Bill 244.

“We support moving the school board elections because there’s not enough people showing up for those elections,” said Janice Danforth, chairwoman and founder of the Tulsa Moms for Liberty chapter. “And we want more community involvement in elections so we can start having more parent and community involvement in what’s going on in public education.”

Voter turnout for local school board elections in April 2022 was, on average, less than 4%, according to the flier, which bears the message “It is time to move school-board elections to November.”

People are also reading…

“I think that the bottom line for this school board bill is that there’s only two important points everybody should consider,” said Dana Mooney, chair of the Canadian County chapter of Moms for Liberty. “And it’s hard to argue against them because of the money that this bill saves and how the voter turnout will be greatly increased.”

The move could save about $16 million a year in election costs, one lawmaker said, but it might necessitate an extra poll worker in each precinct at a cost of about $230,000 per election.

What Moms for Liberty stands for

Moms for Liberty leaders say their concerns about participation go beyond voter turnout; they also endorse candidates and support members who run for elected office, including school board races.

The national organization of Moms for Liberty has been making headlines since its inception in Florida in early 2021. Moms for Liberty chapters have popped up across the country since then. By July 2023, there were 285 chapters in 44 states, according to founder Tiffany Justice.

“We exist to educate parents and protect their God-given rights,” Angela Cozort, secretary of the Moms for Liberty Tulsa chapter, said in a previous Tulsa World interview.

The Tulsa chapter began the way many others did, including the national organization: over concerns about COVID-era policies.

Danforth began to be concerned in the fall of 2021 about the possibility of mask and vaccine mandates at Bixby Public Schools, as well as long stints of remote learning that she felt were not good for her ninth-grade son.

“The main premise of what we do is protecting parental rights and making sure there’s accountability and transparency in the public school system so that parents know what’s going on,” Danforth said.

She said the Bixby school board was not as responsive to her concerns as she would have liked, so she looked into starting a Moms for Liberty chapter in the Tulsa area.

Cozort shared Danforth’s concerns about COVID regulations and was one of the first 10 people who showed interest in the organization, allowing Danforth to start the chapter.

“The point is, parents make the decisions for their kids,” said Shelley Gwartney, the group’s treasurer.

Current state of Moms for Liberty in Oklahoma

The policies that compelled the group to form are no longer in effect. Now the members focus on regulating the library books to which children have access and trying to remove social-emotional learning from school curricula. They also focus on endorsing and supporting school board candidates who agree with their policy goals.

“My concern right now is more engaged school boards,” said Cozart.

Few candidates endorsed by the group in school board races have gone on to win their elections. Gwartney ran for a seat on the Union Public Schools board in 2022 but was unsuccessful. She has now launched a campaign for state Senate.

The local group has grown to 76 members, with 982 followers on the Tulsa Moms for Liberty Facebook page. The members meet once a month for a prayer, pledge and “Madison Minute,” where a member reads a passage from the Constitution.

Members are then addressed by a guest speaker or called to vote on officers, on charitable endeavors or on whom the chapter will endorse in school board elections. They take on small, school-specific charity projects such as providing supplies for teachers or reading to children.

The national organization of Moms for Liberty has weathered several controversies, including one chapter’s use of a Hitler quote in its newsletter and a sexual scandal involving one of its founding members.

The Tulsa chapter has not made national headlines but is labeled as an anti-government group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Moms for Liberty is one of the three organizations in Oklahoma to appear on the SPLC Hate Map.

“Our anti-government extremist group designation we define as one that believes that the federal government is tyrannical,” said Maya Henson Carey, a research analyst for the SPLC. “And they (Moms for Liberty) really push out conspiracy theories about the tyrannical federal government.”

Henson Carey said that while Moms for Liberty generally meets this definition, the Tulsa chapter was labeled as an anti-government group due to its rhetoric and close association with political figures who include State Superintendent Ryan Walters. Also, the chapter’s website links to several education-related conspiracy theories, she said.

“Their overarching theme (is) that public schools and public educators are attempting to influence and sexualize children through a radical Marxist agenda,” said Henson Carey.

Moms for Liberty in Tulsa has focused on ridding public schools of social-emotional learning, which one resource on its website calls “a dangerous new religion,” and on removing books from libraries that it deems overtly sexual or inappropriate.

The new Tulsa World app offers personalized features. Download it today.

Users can customize the app so you see the stories most important to you. You can also sign up for personalized notifications so you don’t miss any important news.

If you’re on your phone, download it here now: Apple Store or Google Play


Patrick Prince

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *