You have to hear the speech that a parent delivered at a recent school board meeting in response to one board member’s religious tirade against her daughter.
To make sense of it, you have to understand that Colorado Springs has long been a hotbed for white evangelical Christianity. That brand of bigotry has now crept onto local public school boards. A couple of months ago, in the span of a two weeks, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent multiple letters to those boards warning them about board members using their positions to foist their personal religious views on students.
In the case of District 49, for example, Board Treasurer Ivy Liu advertises prayer circles before meetings just outside the building where those meetings take place. FFRF attorney Chris Line said those promotions “would be perceived by any reasonable observer as an endorsement of religion.”
But it’s the situation with another board member, Jamilynn D’Avola, that’s relevant here. When she ran for the board in 2021, her campaign website said “one of my top priorities would be to make sure children are assigned to different bathroom based on their biological sex,” a direct attack on trans kids. She also condemned comprehensive sex education, the “LGBTQ+ agenda,” Black Lives Matter, and “social justice.” Just a total moral monster on every level.
Last year, a student in the district wrote a heartfelt letter to D’Avola urging her to reconsider her positions now that she was on the board. The letter ended by saying, “Some students do not receive this information at home and need to learn it at school so that they stay safe and healthy. I know this is a lot, Mrs. D’Avola, but please, at least consider the things I have said. The mental health of the district’s students is potentially on the line.”
D’Avola could easily have responded with, “Thank you for your message.” And then she could’ve ignored it.
Instead, her response included this Christian-tainted pseudo-sermon:
God cares very deeply about every person and wants them to know who they are in Him… All people are created equal and no one can take that away from them because it was given to them by God. When someone fully understands who they are in Christ, then they will know they are valued and will be able to overcome depression and thoughts of suicide. They will know that there are only two genders and that there is absolute truth that comes from the Word of God. There is great freedom that comes from knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father expect (sic) through Him. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, but with this freedom comes great responsibility. We are not free to do whatever we feel like, we must uphold the values and truth of the Bible.
I know that you may not agree with me, and that is ok. I will still see you as the Lord sees you, as a child of the most high God who is loved and valued above all. You are unique, and God has given you special gifts and talents. I pray that God would reveal Himself to you so that you too can experience the love of the Father.
She downplayed the seriousness of mental health. She dismissed the existence of trans people. She implied the student needed to convert to her religion. It was just completely inappropriate bullshit from someone speaking as a government official. Maybe if a Muslim board member did the same thing, she would recognize how out-of-line such a response is.
That’s why FFRF sent a letter to the district telling the board to knock it off.
But on Thursday night, the mother of the student who sent that email stood up during the board meeting to condemn D’Avola’s actions herself. Lacy Carroll’s speech is a breath of fresh air compared to the people who have power in that room:
My name is Lacy Carroll, and I’m the parent of two students in this district. Many of you ran on the platform and have continued to promote parental choice in education and the idea that parents should be the gatekeepers of the information and ideas that are presented to their children. You have communicated that students should not be subjected to opinions that contradict their family’s values.
But which parents? I’m certainly not included in that. A board member’s email to my child referenced in the letter you received from the Freedom From Religion Foundation made it quite clear that this only applies to parents who already think like she does.
My family values science and mental health care, diversity and inclusion. She trampled on these values when she communicated with my child and promoted something entirely different.
Although I believe my child is capable of critically thinking through diverse information, and our values are not so fragile that they have to be shielded from every alternative view, it is the hypocrisy of the school board that cannot be tolerated. If you’re going to censor the information that students are provided in the classroom, then you should also be censoring yourselves in the name of parental rights.
If students are subjected only to this board member’s values, and differing values are silenced, that would be indoctrination—the very thing you claim to be fighting against.
For those who are supporting her, how would you feel if she were a Muslim, promoting the truth of the Qur’an to your child, or an atheist telling your child there is no God? Freedom of and from religion protects everyone, but it has to be extended to all of us.
I think some of you are capable of understanding that. But if you don’t begin denouncing the misuse of this platform when other members overstep, as this board member did when she emailed my child and continues to do at every meeting when she expresses contempt for families like mine, then it will make it impossible for me to believe that you truly care about parental rights at all and you are only here to push forward your personal agenda. You seem to think that your values are the only ones that can exist and that anything else is the absence of values.
I want to be clear that I am very intentionally teaching my kids to celebrate diversity and to make others feel safe. Those are our family values. According to you, I should have the right to do that without a school official going behind my back to undermine me. So help me understand: Do all parents have rights or just the ones you agree with? What is the real purpose of this discussion? I want you to really ask yourselves that.
Because I think if it’s were truly about parental rights, you would have more to say in defense of mine. Thank you.
That is a hell of a speech. It was calm, laid out the obvious hypocrisy, and simply asked for some basic courtesy. Not once did she even call out D’Avola by name.
And yet, later in the meeting, when the board members had the opportunity to respond to some of the public comments, Ivy Liu came to her conservative buddy’s defense… in the worst possible way: She blamed the daughter who wrote the initial email.
… And Ms. Carroll? Your child contacted Ms. Jamilynn. Stop accusing her of pushing her agenda on your child. Your child contacted her. Please stop accusing her publicly of a misdoing.
So… the child urged a school board member to be a decent human being. The school board member responded by basically telling that child she’s too stupid to understand mental illness and gender identity and needed more Jesus in her life. And another school board member Blamed. The. Child.
This is what happens when you elect the dumbest conservatives in your area to the most important positions of power. They always play victims while relishing the chance to be bullies.
Kudos to Lacy Carroll and her daughter and everyone else pushing back against this conservative takeover of their school district. The kids deserve so much better than ideologues like Liu and D’Avola who think conservative propaganda is an acceptable substitute for an actual education.