WEIGHING IN – Mohonasen school board member Chad McFarland recently compared support for LGBTQ+ groups to support for pedophilia.
He’ll say that my characterization of what he said is unfair. He’ll say, as he did to me, that he made the connection between the two during a Mohonasen Central School District Board of Education meeting to prove how absurd it would be for the board to provide carte blanche approval of school clubs.
But by invoking an organization linked to pedophilia, McFarland stoked fear. And it’s representative of the fear-mongering that’s occurring on school boards across the country, where so-called “parents’ rights” members are cloaking discriminatory views as the need for more discretion.
McFarland does not consider himself a parents’ rights advocate, but he voiced a piece of their ideology nearly three hours into the March 13 school board meeting in Rotterdam. He said parents in the district have expressed concern about the name of a school club at the district’s Draper Middle School called the “Genders and Sexualities Alliance.”
Let me interject here to say that such alliances are mainstream. They are student-run organizations that exist in middle and high schools across the country. Colleges too. They are the latest iteration of Gay-Straight Alliances, which have been around for decades to provide safe spaces and community for LGBTQ+ students, and, yes, are meant to be vessels of advocacy for social change surrounding racial, gender and educational justice.
In other words, Genders and Sexualities Alliances fight for exactly the rights that terrify parents’ rights advocates.
At last week’s meeting, McFarland said he’d been hearing from district parents who shared specific concerns to do with the name of the Draper club and its use of the word — those parents may want to avert their eyes — “sexualities.”
McFarland said the use of the word could imply that the club would focus conversations on the act of sex, which would not be appropriate for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.
“It had to do with the word sexuality, and how provocative and how borderline harmful that can be, if that’s what we are highlighting,” McFarland said.
But McFarland was the one being provocative. To feign worry that conversations at meetings would be allowed to become explicitly sexual is disingenuous. As with all Mohonasen clubs, the GSA always meets while supervised by a faculty adviser.
During the school board meeting, McFarland was clear that he supports LGBTQ+ rights and believes clubs focused on such issues have a place in the Mohonasen community. But he said he and other parents view a club with the word “sexualities” in its name as being a bridge too far.
And … that’s when he compared the club to pedophilia.
“I don’t mean to shock our conscience here, but I just came up with a couple for instances to make the point that it’s not all or nothing,” McFarland said. “So the NAMBLA, which is the North American Man/Boy Love Association — that exists — if some students came and said ‘We want to have the NAMBLA Understanding Club.’ Well?”
After this comment, Board President Wade Abbott temporarily cut off McFarland before allowing him to continue his line of argument, which eventually went on to also compare support for GSA to support for a pole-dancing club.
NAMBLA has been identified in U.S. Department of Justice literature as “a pedophile organization that advocates adult sexual behavior with male children.”
Despite the regret he expressed to me, McFarland fanned flames of intolerance during the meeting. If he wanted to point out extremes to which the board shouldn’t go in accepting student group ideology, he could have used an abundance of any other hyperboles.
He could have said the board would never support a murderer club, a bank-robbing group, a white supremacist organization.
He didn’t. And by choosing an organization that supports pedophilia, McFarland equated a perverse group with LGBTQ+ groups.
This messaging, as unintentional as it may have been, is the kind that has infiltrated school boards nationwide, propagated by right-wing media. Disguising their biases innocently as what’s best for the protection of all, parents’ rights advocates are “anti-woke” warriors attempting to root out everything they believe threatens to destabilize their more traditional worldviews.
This is why verbal and physical attacks on transgender communities have become so fervent and pervasive, with transgender people being at least four times more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than cisgender people, according to UCLA data. It’s also how you get something like the furry hoax, about which I wrote earlier this school year, in which parents had been showing up to school board meetings worried that schools were providing litter boxes in the bathrooms to accommodate kids who identify as cat-like creatures.
The goal in all of this bomb throwing is to otherize members of the LGBTQ+ community, to compare them to animals and to the extreme filth that is pedophilia. The goal is to erode popular support for LGBTQ+ communities as much as possible.
McFarland, no matter his intent, gave this rhetoric a microphone.
But let’s, for a moment, take McFarland’s argument at face value. Let’s consider whether the word sexuality is appropriate for middle schoolers, who at Draper range in age from 11 to 14, with very few exceptions.
I’m sorry the word seems to make McFarland so uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t pose a problem. Sexuality is a pretty important part of life — some might even say it’s essential, no?
And middle school is exactly when students begin thinking about it. Of course, we shouldn’t be encouraging sexual activity for this age group, but we should be encouraging them to start to understand how sexuality fits into the world. In fact, Mohonasen students have their first sexual education experience in fifth grade when they are shown a maturation video. The health education continues in middle school.
Parents are given the opportunity to opt out, which, by the way, is the same freedom with a GSA club — no one is mandating any student join.
Middle school, if not younger, is the age at which kids begin to “like” each other and develop their sexual identities. We should be encouraging open-mindedness and the embrace of differences, particularly among this age group, to help build more well-adjusted teens comfortable with who they are. In turn, this will lead to a more well-adjusted and accepting adult population.
Then again, this is exactly what parents’ rights supporters fear.
McFarland said he wants to rein it all in, you know, for the children’s sake.
“I think moving forward it’s not that we’re engaging in viewpoint discrimination on people’s expression, but that there is some reasonableness to make sure that we are looking out for the kids and that we don’t let it get too far,” McFarland said during the meeting.
He wants to “pump the brakes a little bit” before things get too “extreme.”
I agree completely with that sentiment.
But we need to recognize who is being extreme.
Columnist Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Andrew Waite, Email Newsletter, News, News, Opinion, Opinion, Rotterdam, Schenectady County
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Waite do everyone a favor and go back to Washington, Seattle is missing it’s idiot.
You are gravely misguided. To start, Mr. McFarland advocating for a traditional family structure where parents’ rights are respected and valued is not extreme it is rooted in wisdom and historical truth. This school club is a group engaged in activism. Plain and simple, an adult should not be facilitating a group of students under the age of 18 in a discussion of sexual activities on school grounds.
Sex education is drastically different than exploring sexuality. The school should foster a safe space for all students, but it is not obligated to invite activism with merely a couple decades of historical reference and data. Any logical mind should know that just because something is mainstream does not make it the right path. The activity of this group appears to fall very much in line with all other forms of sexual advertisement which marketers are prohibited by law from exposing to children under the age of 18.
To read this statement as fear mongering is inaccurate. If there is any fear mongering, going on it is from you stoking the flame for the activists to make them fear they will be thrown out of the schools. Time will tell if that is ultimately the resolution to this public dilemma.
Right-wingers carry such shame around the word “sexuality” that they automatically equate it with pedophilia. If they were allowed to discuss sexuality, like say in a school group, perhaps they wouldn’t be the repressed broken-brained people that they are today.
“FIrst God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made school boards.”. Mark Twain.
mr Waite great editorial.
The truth scares the likes of big BM aka Zach we generally ignore his nasty comments or offer a box of tissues!
Waite seems to take this personally and acts just like the liberals that hijack the LTE section of the paper. Waite says that “so-called parents’ rights activists” are discriminatory. I beg to differ and it is the parent’s job to monitor what goes on in their children’s schools. The relevant word here is “their Children” as they do not belong to the school, the state, or the teachers. Waite obviously didn’t pay attention to Va. Governor’s race where Terry McAuliffe got beat by Glen Youngkin primarily because he said that parents are not going to tell the teachers how to teach. Waite doesn’t understand that parents will pull their kids out of school and either homeschool or send them to private school. Parents won’t stand for the sexualization and indoctrination of their kids. Waite is too used to whacko liberal Seattle politics
Is this the new whining point for you all? That others who disagree are “taking it personally”? Not the first time I’m seeing this.
Maybe you could elaborate on what “taking it personally” means? Because right now it look like the rightwingers are the ones with the oh-so-delicate skins.
Sounds like a voluntary club. All the people complaining a) have likely never attended a meeting nor would allow their children to attend, and b) have no idea what actually happens at the meetings.
Yikes. Not what I want on the front page. Adults other than parents should not be discussing sexuality with children age 11-14. That is grooming behavior.
Last I remember school sanctioned organizations have adult advisors assigned. Trained professionals. Young people today are bombarded by idiotic ideas on social media, and our sanctimonious and hypocritical rightwingers. Schools play a critical role in providing grounding for them (partly because so many parents are ill-equipped to). Exploring one’s sexuality is about as old as the human race (and probably before). Our kids need organizations like this to help them sort out all the noise.
It is most definitely not advocacy, or “grooming”.
And by the way, those same people accusing others who want to talk openly about sexuality seem to be the same group who look the other way from the real grooming problems in their churches and All-American groups like the Boy Scouts of America.
Andrew, why are you creating a huge article over something you are admitting that Mr. McFarland did not mean in the context you ran with? Instead, why don’t you highlight all the good Mohonasen is doing for their students? They have an excellent food bank, anchor room and a lot of social workers that make sure every student has the support they need, no matter the topic.
These board meetings create discussions that can lead to change and positive outcomes. You are not interested in discussing anything. Your employer should be concerned about how passionate you are about 9 year old’s and their need to have more sex talk at school instead of math and social studies.
Every piece doesn’t have to be politically motivated garbage to signal how much better you think you are than everyone else. How about next time you actually do some real research on how the school runs instead of misinterpreting one sentence someone said at a board meeting. You are trying to look good to your colleagues across the country, when in reality you will all be out of a job because no one will pay for inaccurate opinions.