A sign at Fugett High School in the West Chester Area School District inviting students to join a gender and sexuality alliance caught the eye of GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill McSwain, who l called an example of “left-wing political indoctrination” in a Facebook post.
McSwain, a former U.S. attorney whose hometown of West Chester, has since deleted the post, which included a photo of the sign and promised, “This will end when I’m governor.”
But the message — and another social media post from a Republican operative accusing the school of “grooming” students — sparked outrage from parents who saw it as targeting children and their district.
“I was immediately like – what is ‘this’? Children’s lives? Places where they can be themselves? said Steph Anderson, whose daughter is in the club. “They are adults , they’re politicians…attacking kids.” She said her daughter learned about the posts at school and came home “really frustrated and worried.”
Screenshots provided by the parents show that McSwain posted the message on his Facebook campaign page on March 4. a day after attending a Chester County GOP event at school, according to another article. It wasn’t clear when he deleted it; a relative said it was at least until Monday morning.
Despite the post being deleted, a campaign spokesperson said Wednesday that McSwain is sticking to the post.
“Whether it’s hateful critical race theory or the ‘profound social change related to racial, gender and educational justice’ which is the goal of the GSA, Bill McSwain believes it is inappropriate that Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars be spent on public schools to explicitly encourage the progressive social justice agenda,” spokeswoman Rachel Tripp said. She did not respond to a question about why McSwain deleted the message.
A spokesperson for the West Chester School District said the GSA was one of “many school and non-school clubs” available to students.
“Like any public school that receives federal funding and acts in accordance with the federal Equal Access Act of 1984, we support and provide equal access to non-school clubs that build relationships among students with common interests” , spokeswoman Molly Schwemler said. .
She said GSAs are “student-run organizations or clubs that bring together LGBTQ+ and allied youth. At the heart of GSA clubs, and all student clubs, is the ability to provide students with a defined space in which to make valuable connections and have meaningful discussions with their peers.
The GSA panel photographed by McSwain and Matt Braynard – the executive director of a group called Look Ahead America and the organizer of September’s ‘Justice for J6’ rally supporting those charged with the insurrection at the US Capitol – has describes the group this way: “It’s a safe space to share your feelings, thoughts and emotions! Everyone is welcome!”
He invited interested students to join staff members by email. While McSwain hid these addresses from his post, Braynard did not – and called the teachers a “grooming gang”.
Teachers involved with the club did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Meghan Reikob, who has a ninth-grade student at West Chester East High School involved with a GSA club there, said she was “really disappointed” by McSwain’s message – who, like other parents, she connected to a broader right-wing movement targeting how schools address gender and sexuality and diversity, equity and inclusion.
Some of that is happening in state homes: On Tuesday, the Florida Legislature passed what critics dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, restricting teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity; other legislative efforts aim to limit the teaching of “dividing” concepts around race, racism or gender.
School boards also continued to grapple with the culture war controversy, with parents across the country challenging the booksmany with LGBTQ themes.
“I don’t think, unfortunately, it was out of the blue,” Reikob said. She noted McSwain’s call for a “parents’ bill of rights” – a speech her spokesperson reaffirmed on Wednesday, saying McSwain will “protect the right of parents to have their children educated free from political indoctrination of any kind.” so be it”.
Children should learn that LGBTQ people exist and deserve respect, Reikob said. Of McSwain’s rights vision, she said, “Will it just be parental rights for those who agree?”