Speakers said the stakes in Georgia are high.
“We are in a state that’s the biggest battleground in the country,” former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., said. She said indoctrination in schools is starting at the federal level and trickling down.
Concerns that the government is inserting itself between parents and children is one of the main engines of Moms for Liberty and was a recurring theme Monday.
“Social emotional learning taps into the innermost corners of a child’s mind that should only be formed through the worldview that the parents decide,” Holly Terei, a Gwinnett County parent, said to a panel of legislators during a question-and-answer session. Terei holds national and local leadership roles in No Left Turn in Education, another parent empowerment group, and was part of a group that sued Gwinnett schools over its former mask mandate.
“It’s trampling on our rights,” she said. ”We need to get social emotional learning out of our schools.”
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning says SEL helps to “develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”
Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, said he’s working on strengthening the parents’ bill of rights that was adopted in 2022. That legislation said parents have a right to review curriculum materials — Dixon said it ought to expand to include any supplemental items, such as news articles, that a teacher may introduce in class.
Tina Descovich, a Moms for Liberty co-founder, downplayed recent national headlines about their endorsed candidates’ success in the November elections. Many candidates were motivated to run because an incumbent wasn’t facing a challenger, she said. The group said 40% of its endorsed candidates won their races.
The American Federation of Teachers said the results demonstrated a rejection of the parental rights movement.
Families “don’t want culture wars; they want safe and welcoming public schools where their kids can recover and thrive,” union President Randi Weingarten said in a news release after Election Day.
Moms for Liberty is relatively new to Georgia but trying to expand. The organization’s website lists five chapters in the state: Chattooga, Fulton, Gwinnett, Hall and Oconee counties.
Meg Rudnick, chair of the Gwinnett chapter, said the group has an eye on making the Gwinnett school board elections in May competitive. She was aware of multiple candidates running for two of three seats and said the chapter is seeking a candidate to run against Chair Tarece Johnson-Morgan.
“We have to find some healthy competition to oppose her, whether it’s to make her a better school board candidate or to take the seat back,” Rudnick said. The board shifted in 2020 to become majority Democrat after a long period of Republican control. The Legislature then made the board nonpartisan.