Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:50 p.m. to remove a reference to the 2021 elections. The Johnson County chapter of Moms for Liberty endorsed no candidates for that election because the chapter had not formed yet.
A local chapter of Moms for Liberty — a conservative “parental rights” group that has been labeled extremist by some — has started distributing flyers in Johnson County aimed at spreading alarm about local schools’ academic performance while also defending the removal of some books from schools.
The Johnson County chapter for Moms for Liberty has been distributing the flyers in public spaces — some of which have been found in the Blue Valley area on people’s car windows.
The flyers defend “book banning” as a means of protecting students from sexually explicit and age-inappropriate material and also claim large percentages of students in several local school districts in Johnson County — in some cases, a majority of students — are “below effective ability” in math, reading and science.
This comes as local school boards gear up for nonpartisan elections this November — including in Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission.
The flyers address book bans and performance data
- The front side of the flyer, a copy of which was obtained by the Post, express support for “book bans,” arguing that keeping “sexually explicit, violent and profanity-laced books” out of public schools is “discernment and common sense.”
- The back side of the flyer states that four local school districts — Blue Valley, Olathe, Shawnee Mission and Gardner Edgerton — are underperforming in math, reading and science, according to the Kansas State Department of Education’s own four-tiered system for assessing student test data.
- The flyers argue that the data show that in these districts, large percentages of students — nearly 50% of students in math in Blue Valley, for instance — are falling “below effective ability” in math, reading and science, by falling into the lower two tiers.
- Both sides of the flyer cite Moms for Liberty as the creator and contain a QR code leading to the Johnson County chapter of Moms for Liberty’s website.
The Blue Valley district responds
- Blue Valley School District representatives told the Post that the data included in the flyer comes from state assessment results from 2022 — arguing that while state test scores show improvement over the past year, student success could not be properly summed up by a singular “point-in-time test.”
- “To clarify, when it says Blue Valley 49% math, that means 49% of our scores for math fall in Level 1 or 2 (showing limited or basic ability to understand), and 51% of our student scores are in Levels 3 and 4 (showing effective or excellent ability to understand).”
- “Overall, Blue Valley students score higher than the Kansas average, a state with some of the most rigorous cut scores in the country,” the district said in a statement.
- The Kansas Association of School Boards has said state assessment data is just one way to measure student success, and that ” there are many variables when it comes to student success,” according to the association’s website.
The group has gotten involved in local elections before
- Over the past few years, Moms for Liberty has spearheaded a push against incorporating Black history and gender identity into public school curricula and reading materials
- This led civil rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center to officially label the group as “extremist” in a recent report.
- Moms for Liberty has also utilized state assessment data to express concern in public schools as a whole in the past.
One school board candidate is ‘disappointed’ with performance
- Blue Valley school board candidate Michael Huebner said while he had not yet seen the specific data pushed out by Moms for Liberty, he generally found his most recent review of the district’s student achievement data “disappointing.”
- “I am just now beginning my discussions with constituents on their thoughts on our schools, but almost every person I have spoken to has been disappointed with the recent performance in our schools,” he said. “Additionally, one of the primary reasons I am running is what I have seen in our experience with the BV Schools.”
- So far into this election cycle, Moms for Liberty has not endorsed this year’s Blue Valley school board candidates.