The DFL issued a rallying cry against a conservative school board member, but their plan backfired because parents with children in the district showed up in overwhelming numbers to support the member instead.
DFL Senate District 31 encouraged community members via Facebook to attend Monday night’s meeting to express their disapproval of Anoka-Hennepin School Board Member Matt Audette’s comments in opposition to the election of Marci Anderson as chair at a Jan. 9 school board meeting.
— Minnesota Parents Alliance (@MNParentsFTW) January 11, 2023
Audette’s comments were “deeply concerning” for students and community members, according to the DFL, which told community members to attend Monday’s meeting to “prove him wrong.”
“It [Audette’s speech] attacks equity training & instruction, insists that acknowledging students’ pronouns is ‘grooming them to participate in the LGBT lifestyle’ and even calls social emotional learning (teaching students about kindness) an infringement on parents rights and a waste of money,” the DFL said.
However, the meeting was standing-room only as community members and parents showed up in overwhelming support of Audette and his conservative position.
An overarching theme among Audette’s supporters was the board’s need to focus on academic achievement, since barely half the district’s students can read at grade-level. Parents expressed support for Audette’s position, thanked him for “giving them a voice,” and lauded him for being “spot on” in his criticism of the board’s policies.
Randy Nelson, a white parent of biracial children in the district, said the board does not listen to parental concerns about critical race theory (CRT) and other “divisive” topics.
“They’re teaching my adopted black children they’re oppressed and my white children they’re oppressors. I showed up tonight because I saw the video of Matt from Jan. 9 and he took a stand. That’s why there’s such a big turnout. We support him. He’s our voice,” Nelson told Alpha News after the meeting.
Jenny Forschen, a mother of children in the district, agreed.
“I’m here to support Matt Audette and show the board the community stands behind him. He is standing up for our children and our community to ensure our kids have the learning time in the classroom they need to get the education they deserve,” she said. “The board has continually voted to dilute our children’s education with highly politicized topics, which should not be put upon our children.”
In a 5-1 vote, Audette was the sole opponent of Anderson’s election to school board chair earlier this month. Before voting no, Audette read a five minute statement detailing why he could not support Anderson.
Some of the issues he cited included a “dogmatic belief” that systemic racism has overtaken the Anoka-Hennepin school system and the district must eliminate it through its equity and achievement plan.
Audette said the “watered down system of discipline” has resulted in classroom disruptions and violence against students and staff, contributing to low morale among employees and problems hiring and retaining teachers.
He also criticized social-emotional learning (SEL).
“It [SEL] appears virtuous but undermines the role of the family,” Audette said. “There’s little evidence to show the program improves academic achievement.”
Audette called out the adult-led, not child-driven, campaign to sexualize children through curriculum, media, books and social activities which support the LGBT agenda.
These materials appear to be “grooming children to actively support and even participate in these lifestyles. Children are placed in high pressure situations requiring them to support ideas that run contrary to the values and beliefs that most Americans hold and undermine the rights of parents,” he said.
Not all who attended Monday’s meeting supported Audette. A former student said Audette upset people with the polarizing “buzzwords” used in his statement.
A former teacher called CRT “meaningless.” Rod Kuehn, a resident in the district, said Audette’s comments about CRT are “right-wing claptrap.”
Kevin Landry, a parent of children in the district, said Audette’s positions are an “assault on our education system because it’s supposed to teach children about the real history of this country and not the whitewashed BS that they want to push.”
“He wants to educate the white kids,” Landry said.
Audette expressed his gratitude for the parents who showed up to support him.
“I am grateful for this unexpected outpouring of support from our community tonight,” he said. “The issues we face are challenges on many levels and because of the pressure people are feeling to remain silent it was especially notable that so many took the time to be there and make their opinions known. I made a commitment to the community, and especially the parents to be their voice on the school board and to put our kids first. It hasn’t been easy but as I’ve told so many mothers, their kids are worth it.”
Sheila Qualls is an award-winning journalist and former civilian editor of an Army newspaper. Prior to joining Alpha News, she was a Christian Marriage and Family columnist at Patheos.com and a personal coach. Her work has been published in The Upper Room, the MOPS blog, Grown and Flown, and The Christian Post. She speaks nationally on issues involving faith and family.