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Ed Sec. questions if parents ‘know what’s right for their kids’

By Jake Beardslee · September 25, 2023

In brief…

  • U.S. Education Secretary Cardona criticized parents speaking out against school policies in an interview.
  • Cardona said he doesn't respect parents "misbehaving" at board meetings.
  • His comments are seen as targeting parents who oppose COVID rules, CRT, and questionable library books.
  • The controversy continues after Virginia Gov. Youngkin pardoned a father arrested at school board meeting in 2021 for protesting the rape of his daughter in a school bathroom being used by a biological boy.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona (above) criticized "misbehaving" parents at school board meetings, sparking backlash from parents' rights groups.  Maryland GovPics/Wikimedia

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona courted controversy this week with provocative comments about parents’ involvement in their children’s schooling.

“I respect differences of opinion. I don’t have too much respect for people that are misbehaving in public and then acting as if they know what’s right for kids,” Cardona said.

The secretary’s remarks come amid ongoing tensions between parents and school boards across the country. Many parents have been speaking out against COVID-19 restrictions in schools, the teaching of critical race theory, the availability of sexually explicit books in libraries, and new bathroom rules.

At some school board meetings confrontations have turned hostile.

Cardona said he longed for the days when education debates involved “civility” and “healthy conversations.” The secretary suggested some parents have crossed a line with their activism.

His comments immediately drew backlash from parents’ rights groups.

“Actions speak louder than words, and they reveal that Secretary Cardona does not, in fact, respect differences of opinion,” said Nicole Neily of Parents Defending Education.

She added, “Look no further than the fact that in 2022, Cardona’s Education Department chose to shut down its faux ‘parents council’ stacked with rubber-stamping elites rather than add any members who would provide viewpoint diversity, and was named by a board member of the [National School Boards Association] as the instigator of its now-infamous letter.”

The controversy follows Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s pardon this month of a father arrested at a 2021 school board meeting. The father, Scott Smith, grew angry after Loudoun County school officials denied knowing of any sexual assaults in their school bathrooms. In fact, his daughter had been sexually assaulted in a bathroom by a biological male student wearing a skirt.

Youngkin pardoned the father, saying Smith “did what any parent would do” in standing up for his child. The Republican governor - an possible presidential candidate - has made parents’ rights in education a central issue.