Far-Right Extremism in School Boards
School boards take up anti-trans policies the legislature can't pass
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With the help of our Media & Events volunteer team, we’re building up our capacity to track policy and politics in Arizona’s school boards. Between bad-faith fear mongering over inclusive curricula and parent outrage over covid safety measures, school boards have become a major battle ground where far-right extremists are able to push agendas that can’t succeed at the state level, partly because they can operate with little public oversight or scrutiny. We’re going to do our part to make sure their actions are made known to the general public by publishing a school board report card here in our newsletter.
School Board Report Card
Superintendents under fire — over the past few months, mirroring similar pressure campaigns against elections workers, superintendents in multiple school boards have come under intense scrutiny for their inclusive policy positions. In the Casa Grande High School District, when superintendent Anna Battle was fired with no explanation at the end of January, one board member (Taylor Kerby) called out the clear racist motives for her termination in his vote to retain her. In the Scottsdale Unified School District, board members and legislators (including Senator Kavanagh) have called for the resignation of superintendent Scott Menzel over support for trans students. Similar to the balance of responsibility between a city council and city manager, it’s superintendents who are actually responsible for the operations of a school district, with school boards serving to create policy and — critically — to hire and fire the superintendent. Because of this, pressure campaigns to force out a superintendent are essentially a way to fast-track a cultural reset in a district.
Targeted harassment of LGBTQ+ board members — parallel to the attacks on superintendents, queer and trans school board members are facing targeted harassment in their districts, sometimes through misrepresentations in the media. After Washington Elementary School District voted to end a voluntary contract with Arizona Christian University over a violation of the school district’s nondiscrimination policy, board member Tamillia Valenzuela came under attack for her part in that decision. Criticism of the move highlighted her neurodivergence, ethnicity, and queerness while largely ignoring the participation of other board members in the unanimous vote to end the contract. Meanwhile, in Liberty Elementary School District, board member Paul Bixler has faced ongoing harassment and targeted threats simply for being a trans woman.
Anti-trans policies in the works — despite Governor Hobbs’ guaranteed veto, extremists in the state legislature continue to push anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-trans policies. And while SB 1040, a bill to exclude trans students from school bathrooms, doesn’t have a chance to become state law, it could still be enacted by motivated school boards. Currently, Peoria Unified School District is planning to do just that, and it’s likely that similar moves with other anti-LGBTQ+ policies could follow in Peoria and other districts .
Legislative Session Update
Active anti-LGBTQ+ bills
Parents’ Bill of Rights
SCR 1025 (constitutional amendment)
SB 1005 (weaponizing lawsuits)
SB 1001 (chosen name and pronoun ban)
SB 1040 (trans bathroom ban)
SB 1700 (trans book ban)
SB 1694 (bans DEI & inclusive policies)
Drag & Gender Nonconformity
SB 1026 (public funding ban)
SB 1028 (criminalization)
SB 1030 (targets drag brunches)
SB 1698 (mandatory prison time, but no longer mentions drag)
Failed Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills
SB 1702 (gender-affirming care ban)
HB 2317 (student access to counseling)
HB 2517 (x-gender marker ban)
HB 2711 (forced outing of trans students)
While 10 anti-LGBTQ+ bills remain active, the four above failed to meet the deadline to pass through a committee, which means they’re dead for the session.
This Thursday is our next political power team meeting, where we’ll dedicate part of our time to studying the origins and intent of SCR 1025, a ballot referral to add the parent’s bill of rights to the state constitution.
Political Power Team Meeting
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm March 9, 2023 | register
Want to help organize the queer community in Arizona to build our political power for the long term? Join our Political Power volunteer team at Cartel Roasting Co. in Tempe for our monthly meeting. If you can't make it to Tempe, you can call in through our Discord server instead!
Media & Events
Queer People Fit: Nature Walk
10:00 am - 11:30 am March 11, 2023 | register
Looking for safe space to share with queer friends? Start off your Spring with a walk along the accessible Judith Tunnell trail at South Mountain. The Queer People Fit series exists for LGBTQ+ people to come together to build community and to find a sense of belonging. Move with us to build the movement for equality!
Banned Book Club
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm March 20, 2023 | register
As book bans sweep the nation, one great way to push back is to read! Our banned book for the month of March is Detransition, Baby, by Torrey Peters, a novel about family, parenting, and trans community. Join us at Brick Road coffee on March 20 to discuss the book with our book club host Vanessa Marie!