By James Buckley
It began quietly enough not that long ago (Drag Queen Story Hour was launched in 2015), and if it hadn’t been for the pandemic-induced Zoom teaching of elementary school students, it may have gone on indefinitely. It could have become a staple of childhood education.
But fortunately, once parents witnessed the kind of disorientation being fed to their children on their computer screen, they were, unsurprisingly, appalled.
Right-wing coverage of drag queens reading in drag to elementary school children seemed like a San Francisco-style abnormality that couldn’t and wouldn’t affect their schools.
It is a literal nationwide invasion. In fact, if you go on their website (dragqueenstoryhour.org) you’ll find the organization is quite proud of its intentions and what the effort has accomplished.
“What is Drag Queen Story Hour?” it asks. “It’s just what it sounds like!” is the cheery response. “Storytellers using the art of drag to read books to kids in libraries, schools, and bookstores. DQSH captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive and unabashedly queer role models.”
Hmm. A Drag Queen Show can be fun… if you’re an adult. But…
How did it come to pass that someone could convince … school boards … that Drag Queen Story Hour would be appropriate material for… 6-year-olds? How is it that drag queens could be allowed and even encouraged to enlist volunteers from their underaged audience to join in the fun?
Well, welcome to the School Board Wars.
And you’ll be pleased to hear that not only has the battle been joined but that parents are beginning to win.
For example, of the 30 school-board-member candidates in Florida endorsed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in last month’s election, 25 won or advanced in their races. Not only that, but Republican-backed candidates won three seats on the Sarasota County School Board, turning what had been a far-left-leaning school board into a 4-1 conservative majority school board. More impressive was the race in Miami-Dade County, in which the GOP won a majority on that school board, making it the largest county in the U.S. with a conservative majority of school board members.
The deciding factor was apparently that both county school boards had defied Gov. DeSantis’s order (later buttressed by a state law that passed the Florida legislature and was signed by the governor) that mask wearing be strictly voluntary. The two defiant school boards voted to mandate that all students and teachers in their respective districts wear masks when at school, despite the order and the law. Parents rightly were simply fed up with such nonsensical restrictions and voted accordingly.
Closer to home, it was just before noon, and six school-board candidates at Timbers Roadhouse at 10 Winchester Canyon Road, just south (east) of Sandpiper Golf Course on Aug. 27 were greeting supporters as if they were old friends. Many were exactly that. The half-dozen candidates are all vying for seats on various school boards in Santa Barbara County, and all were invited to speak by the Santa Barbara County Republican Party.
They are: Christy Lozano (Goleta Union School District, Trustee Area 3), Efigenia “Efi” Banales (Santa Barbara Unified School District, Trustee Area 1), Rosanne Crawford (Santa Barbara County Board of Education, Trustee Area 1), Dani Blunk (Hope School District Trustee Area 5), Rachel Nigro (who has already taken her place on the board at Montecito Union School District Governing Board Member), and Phebe Mansur (Santa Barbara Unified School District, Trustee Area 4).
You know about Christy, as she’s been introduced and interviewed in this column perhaps half a dozen times. She ran for Santa Barbara county superintendent of Schools against incumbent Susan Salcido in the June primary election. Dr. Salcido won, but Ms. Lozano has proven herself a formidable opponent and an effective advocate for sanity in the public school system. She is likely to be a continuing force in local politics over the coming years. And, though her plans for a new Learning Center have been thwarted for the moment, she vows to continue the effort.
“Parents need a place for kids to go, and there’s not enough private schools to go around,” she said. Her hope is that in addition to adding seats on the various local school boards, Republican candidates can flip at least two of the three seats available on the Santa Barbara County School Board, thereby opening the door to at least one more charter school and possible approval of the kind of learning center she has in mind.
After lunch, Christy spoke first as each candidate gave a short talk explaining their positions and why they are running. The overriding theme of the day was preventing what they all described as leftist indoctrination of Santa Barbara County students, particularly in the elementary grades. They expressed frustration with the barrage of “gender-affirming” race-baiting white-bashing desultory material that seems to rain upon them daily.
They weren’t too happy about Drag Queen Story Hour either.
The hope, they agree, is that most, if not all ,will win their respective races and begin to raise standards overall and help to begin to turn Santa Barbara County school boards into pro-literacy, pro-math, pro-safety and maybe even pro-American bulwarks.
“We’ve got to get this education stuff right,” Gov. DeSantis told Tucker Carlson during a recent Fox News interview. “Because the school board races under our constitution are nonpartisan, the union would back the leftist, fund the leftist, and you’d have a left-wing school board representing a conservative county. So we have fixed that in many of these places, to where these school boards are now going to be representative of the values of the people that live there.”
The successful candidates in Florida campaigned on four major issues: parental rights, transparency, school choice and safety. Santa Barbara County Republican-leaning candidates are running on a similar platform. Winning school district races requires money, dedication, time and effort, so if you are willing to put up any one or more of those qualities, you should contact the person who’s running for your school board. They’ll appreciate all the help you can give.
The last day to vote in the election is Nov. 8, but voting will begin much earlier.
James Buckley is a longtime Montecito resident. He welcomes questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers are invited to visit jimb.substack.com, where Jim’s Journals are on file. He also invites people to subscribe to Jim’s Journal.