California teacher Brenda Lebsack says she began seeing “red flags” in public education when she decided to become more involved with her union, the California Teachers Association.
After she began attending the union’s conferences in 2015, Lebsack says, she was alarmed to see that many of the topics weren’t academic but instead focused on social justice, human rights, and LGBTQ issues.
“I thought, wow, my union does not seem to care that much about academics as much as they do the political side of things,” Lebsack told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.
A teacher since 1987, Lebsack has taught a variety of grade levels and subjects. She currently is a physical education teacher for special education students in several elementary schools in the Santa Ana Unified School District, about 35 miles south of Los Angeles.
In an effort to educate parents on what is happening in schools across America, Lebsack founded the website Brenda4Kids, which offers videos, articles, and other resources designed to “pull back the curtain on what’s really going on in public education.”
Lebsack encourages parents to get involved and find out what is happening in their children’s school district.
In states such as California, unions and lawmakers are “removing more and more local control,” she says. “And they are removing parent rights.”
Lebsack became active in her teachers union only after her own children were grown and out of the house, Lebsack says. Despite the California Teachers Association’s focus on political issues, she decided she would attend some of the union’s conferences.
While attending an Equity & Human Rights Conference in Torrance, California, in March 2016, Lebsack says, she spoke with union lobbyist Seth Bramble.
Lebsack told Bramble about a former student, a Mormon, who said he believed that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that gender is ordained by God.
“How do you think I should have responded to that student?” Lebsack recalls asking the union lobbyist.
She says he responded: “You should treat that student as though he said black people should be burned at the stake.”
“I could not believe what I heard,” Lebsack says.
At the time, she says, she didn’t think the lobbyist represented the perspective of the California Teachers Association. About a year and a half later, in December 2017, she attended the union’s LGBTQ+ Issues Conference in San Jose.
During a workshop session with about 40 attendees, Lebsack recalls, she asked presenter Scott Miller, the union’s LGBTQ+ caucus co-chairman, whether he agreed with Bramble’s sentiment
“Without hesitation, he agreed,” Lebsack says. “To me, it was just a wake-up call.”
“Basically,” she adds, “whoever does not agree with the union’s ideology, including students, was compared to the KKK. This intolerant, extremist, union-promoted viewpoint will create hostile school environments for many students and school employees. It’s dangerous, it’s hateful, and it’s exclusive.”
The Daily Signal spoke with a school administrator who also was present at the workshop but asked not to be identified.
What disturbed her most about Miller’s remarks, this educator says, was his conclusion that a student who doesn’t approve of same-sex marriage is “not allowed to express [his] opinion.”
“If it’s not safe to have a divergent point of view in a classroom, where would it be safe?” the educator says.
The Daily Signal sought comment on this account from Miller, Bramble, and the California Teachers Association, but did not receive a response by publication time.
Motivated to stand against the political agenda of the union, Lebsack already had run successfully for school board in the Orange Unified School District, less than 10 miles north of the Santa Ana district where she teaches.
Lebsack served as a board member from 2016 to 2020. While there, she took a closer look at the union’s agenda and the curriculum taught to students.
In March 2017, she read an article titled “Embracing the Gender Spectrum” in a magazine published by the California Teachers Association. The author was Sherry Posnick-Goodwin, a communications consultant for the union for the past 25 years, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Lebsack recalls being shocked that the article outlined the new term “gender expansive,” with Posnick-Goodwin writing:
People who are transgender have received a lot of media attention, but it is just one option on the gender spectrum, which has expanded from the binary system of two genders (male and female) to being ‘gender expansive’ with a range of identities and expressions.
The article lists male, female, and gender-neutral pronouns, which include “they, them, their, themself, ze, hir, hirs, [and] hirself.”
It also calls on educators to “lead the charge to a greater understanding of the gender spectrum.”
Teacher unions have been known to make demands to further a political agenda, Lindsey Burke, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, says. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news outlet.)
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Burke notes in an email to The Daily Signal, the Los Angeles teachers union “tried to get political concessions such as Medicare for All, a moratorium on charter schools, and defunding the police, in exchange for school reopening.”
The LA union is affiliated with the California Teachers Association.
“As long as families don’t have options and are largely confined to assigned public schools, the unions will continue to exert oversized influence,” Burke told The Daily Signal.
But the unions aren’t the only ones promoting a woke agenda in classrooms, Lebsack says. Many California school districts partner with outside community agencies in a program called Multi-Tiered System of Supports.
The system is a “layered continuum of practices and supports,” according to the Santa Ana school district’s website, that draws on community resources to “work collaboratively to meet the needs of all students.”
Through this system, Planned Parenthood and other groups offer resources and instruction to students.
The Santa Ana district has a memorandum of understanding with Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, “to teach sex ed to our students and provide ‘resources,’” Lebsack says.
As part of Multi-Tiered System of Supports, she says, the Santa Ana district also partners with The Trevor Project, which describes itself as “the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.”
The Trevor Project operates a suicide prevention hotline, or Lifeline, which is advertised to students on posters in school restrooms, Lebsack says.
The Trevor Project, besides affirming the idea of gender identity, openly opposes what critics call conversion therapy, which is broadly defined as efforts to change someone’s sexual orientation through professional therapy or counseling.
On its website, The Trevor Project touts having “significantly expanded … advocacy work, including the adoption of a nationwide campaign to end conversion therapy—one that has helped to stop this dangerous practice in states across the country.”
Parents, Lebsack says, “have no idea that The Trevor Project affirms unlimited gender identities and unlimited sexual orientations.”
Despite having been a public school teacher for decades, Lebsack says, she no longer is an advocate of public education “because parents are being betrayed, disrespected, and left out.”
“The unions’ radical, forced ideology of unlimited genders and pronouns does not match the values of most California families, especially immigrant families,” she says.
Lebsack says she now is an advocate of school choice, because “parents know what’s best for their children, not the state.”
School choice programs provide students with education options through such means as education savings accounts, tax credit scholarships, and vouchers that allow them to enroll in private or charter schools.
Such programs became increasingly popular during the pandemic when many public schools remained closed for in-person learning, Heritage’s Burke says.
“The events of the last year have demonstrated to many families that public schools are not always the reliable institutions many thought they were,” she wrote recently in The Daily Signal.
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