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Propagating Right-Wing Talking Points

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pener ugc nofollow" target="_blank" href="">We know who you are. We know who you are. You can leave freely, but we will find you and we know who you are. We know who you are." - School board protester

In the Culture Wars being propagated by the Republican Party, it is often not what is actually said that sets up the battle lines but what the talking heads can convince their audience was said. The latest example is provided by angry parents convinced that US Attorney General Merrick Garland has labeled them as "domestic terrorists" for speaking out against vaccine mandates and the imagined threat of Critical Race Theory (CRT). The fact that those words never appear in the memorandum released by the Attorney General has not stopped Republican politicians from using them to fan the flames of division.

As a politician who ran with the support of the Los Angeles County Young Democrats and the Pacific Palisades Democratic Club, LAUSD Board Vice President Nick Melvoin should be expected to fight against this type of propaganda. Unfortunately, in a meeting with the right-wing group, California Students United (CSU), Melvoin declined the opportunity to correct the record. Instead, he encouraged the continuation of a false narrative that contributed to the Democrats' loss of the governorship in Virginia.

CSU is a group of parents who sued the LAUSD in an attempt to force the district to open school campuses while COVID-19 was devastating BIPOC communities, a viewpoint that was also pushed by Melvoin through his astroturf group, Speak Up. Like Melvoin, CSU also opposed the work by UTLA to safeguard children during the pandemic. Instead of backing the measures needed to keep our school campuses safely open, CSU is critical of the vaccine mandates instituted by the district, social-distancing requirements, and guidelines for mask usage.

On October 27th, Melvoin participated in a Zoom meeting with this right-wing group. The event was moderated by Michelle Souferian, who is not a student, but a parent. Everyone else involved in the call appeared to be adults. The united students were nowhere to be found.

During the event, Souferian prefaced one of her questions by stating that "right now the United States Attorney General [is] announcing an investigation into school parents as domestic terrorists." Instead of interrupting the questioner and setting the record straight, Melvoin let her continue and then answered without acknowledging the blatant falsehood.

Given Melvoin's careful courting of the constituency that CSU represents during the pandemic, it is almost understandable that he did not have the courage to confront the group's altered view of reality. What it does not explain is the coda to his response where he stated: "of course... parents who are advocating for their kids are not domestic terrorists... What have we become as a country that our villains are... parent advocates? It really just goes to show just how upside-down our priorities are."

As an incumbent school board member, Nick Melvoin should have known better. The Attorney General's memorandum had nothing to do with villainizing parents or limiting their ability to advocate for changes in policy. In fact, within the first paragraph, it specifically states that "spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution." Instead, the memo was a reaction to "a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff".

It should be noted that parents supporting mask and vaccine mandates have also been threatened by these same unhinged protestors. This intimidation has interfered with the ability of these parents to advocate for their children and their ability to attend school without jeopardizing the health of their families.

As noted previously, the words "domestic terrorist" do not appear anywhere within the text of the Attorney General's memo. Melvoin knew this and should have followed the example of John McCain who interrupted a supporter to defend President Obama when she referred to the President as an 'Arab' during the height of the birther conspiracy. McCain risked his political future to do the right thing. On October 27, Melvoin just played along.

Nick Melvoin at  CSU event
Nick Melvoin at CSU event
(Image by California Students United)
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There was also a level of hypocrisy as Melvoin pontificated before CSU, assuring them that "parent voice is critical." Despite publicly stating that his board "office would [be] happy to look at... changes" that were suggested in a proposed resolution that was presented to the board to increase parent engagement, he never followed up or provided the sponsorship needed to bring the matter to a vote. These changes would have prevented board meetings from occurring when school was in session and reduced their length. Instead, he crafted new rules behind closed doors that would have reduced the time allotted to speak from three to two minutes. He was also part of the majority that allowed LAUSD Board President Kelly Gonez to stop the Parent Engagement Committee from meeting during the first nine months of this year.

As Melvoin prepares to face the voters next June, he will surely be taking part in the parade before a variety of Democratic clubs and the Los Angeles County Democratic Party as he tries to line up endorsements. All of these organizations owe it to the students of the LAUSD to ask him about his participation in a right-wing event and why he did not set the record straight when false allegations were made against the Biden administration. Otherwise, these groups become complicit in his actions.

Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with special education needs and public education. He is an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and serves as the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him "a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles." For links to his blogs, please visit Opinions are his own.

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Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a " (more...)

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