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Opinion | The bigots are winning because of the cowards

Our elected leaders have an opportunity to turn back the bigotry driving attacks on libraries and schools. Instead, they’re encouraging it.


The only way bigotry can spread is by good and decent people refusing to push back against it. 

That’s a rule. 

And if you need an example of it in action – or inaction, as it is – let’s take a look at the ongoing freakout over anything concerning LGBTQ+ or racial equality issues being presented to any student at any public school or public library. A tiny, insignificant portion of deadbeat, ignorant parents – and in some cases, just plain bigots without kids – are raising hell about any book, pamphlet, video or educational handout that depicts or educates people on pretty much anything related to sex. 

Somehow, these people believe that the greatest and most direct threat to kids in 2023 aren’t the guns that are killing them literally faster than anything else or the lack of proper sex education that continues to place Alabama at the top of the list for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies among school-age kids, but is instead cartoon depictions of erections and scissoring. 

I know a good many of you have no idea what I’m talking about, because you’ve got jobs and after-school activities with your kids and properly functioning brains, so you’ve missed the five or six people at your kids’ schools who are all-caps-email angry over the LGBTQ  pronoun book in the young adult section at the local library. But they’re out there, and because our state is gerrymandered to hell, giving the far-right buffoons an outsized effect on elections, our politicians are listening to them and are actually banning books. Just like in the Nazi movies. 

Of course, it makes no sense whatsoever. None of it. 

The other day we had a whole freakout over some books about LGBTQ subject matter at a public library that “5- and 6-year-olds could get their hands on.” Um, pardon me, super mom, but why is your 5-year-old roaming about unaccompanied at a public library? 

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Is that what y’all are doing – just driving up to libraries on the weekend and dumping your kids at the front door? Maybe we should invite DHR to the next library protest to perform a welfare check on the kids of these bigots. 

As for the actual young adults, am I understand that you all believe that these kids are bypassing all the porn in the world on the internet – which is available on all of their internet-connected devices – and are instead sneaking off to the public library to learn sex stuff from cartoon depictions in books? What year do y’all think it is? 

This is all so dumb that it’s almost laughable. 

Almost. If not for the people like Gov. Kay Ivey and Trussville City Schools Superintendent Patrick Martin. 

Last week, the Alabama Reflector reported that Ivey’s office – and I’m going to put a good bit of the blame on the people in her office because her support staff folks were on every piece of correspondence – forced the resignation of Barbara Cooper, the now-former director of Alabama’s early childhood education program, over a bogus reason and even after Cooper complied with Ivey’s request. 

Ivey announced Cooper’s departure in April, blaming it on “woke” teaching materials being included in teacher training programs. In reality, there was one manual that simply asked teachers, as a broader approach to teaching, to factor in their students’ backgrounds and what racial discrimination that might have faced in their lives. You know, empathy. God forbid. 

But emails obtained by the Reflector show that Cooper had responded to an email from Ivey’s staff about the training manual – an email prompted by an email from one pandering House member – and had promptly removed the training manual in question. 

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Wasn’t good enough. I guess because that empathy stuff had already seeped into the brains of some teachers, and well, if we don’t start over-disciplining Black kids in our schools, how will we ever fill our billion dollar prisons?

So, if you’re scoring at home: One tractor-selling lawmaker complained about one optional teaching resource manual because it contained “CRT,” and in response our governor ran off the director of the only program in the state functioning properly. 


But the cowardice isn’t limited to the state government level. It’s local, too. 

Last week, Martin, in an effort to beat back the overwhelming outrage generated by one parent and one Facebook post and one call from a rightwing website, appeared to be perfectly fine with not offering sex education to the LGBTQ+ students in his district. 

After the parent posted a pic of a booth at the Trussville High health fair hosted by the Alabama Campaign for Adolescent Sexual Health, which included flyers on pronouns – oh no, not flyers – Martin told the outlet that he was “lied” to by ACASH about the content in the materials at their booth. Had they told him that they planned to offer LGBTQ materials, he said, they would have had a discussion about that, but for now he’s banning the organization from the 2024 health fair. 

On Sunday, ACASH director Christina Clark Okarmus said Martin was never lied to about the materials. Instead, the organization didn’t think that in 2023 it was necessary to disclose to a superintendent of a school system that the sex education materials it would offer students would also include LGBTQ+ students. 

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“I apologized to Dr. Martin for not explicitly stating that LGBTQ materials would be shared, but I also explained that serving LGBTQ youth is integral to sexual health work,” Clark Okarmus said in a statement. “In fact, the National Sex Education Standards establish LGBTQ-inclusivity in all discussions of sex education.”

Of course it does. Because LGBTQ+ students exist. Even in Trussville. 

Those students need sex education just like the other kids. Even if you, or some random parent with a Facebook account, find it icky. 

But instead of standing up to the bigoted parent. Instead of taking a stand for the marginalized and often-bullied LGBTQ+ kids on his campuses in Trussville, and simply telling the lone parent to pound sand, Martin took the coward’s way out. He sold out the kids who are the easiest to sell out. 

And in the process, he, Ivey and all the rest of the people in power – those who could take a stand and stop this lunacy – have only emboldened the bigots. 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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