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Districts for Democracy

By Barbara A. Preston | Posted June 22, 2023


Montgomery resident Barbara Coe recently hosted a gathering in her Colfax Road home, where she told her distinguished guests she has been “really upset about people who are trying to censor parts of the school curriculum and who want to ban books.” “I didn’t know that this is something that’s come right here to New Jersey,” she said. Several of her guests interjected, “Montgomery!” Coe said, “Yes. This is a big issue, and it’s getting worse.”


On the way to Montgomery School Board meetings in the Upper Middle

School hallway is a sign requesting “Kindness Only Beyond this Point.”


Her former Congressman Tom Malinowski, she learned, had organized a political action committee, Districts for Democracy, to counter efforts by conservative groups that want to restrict what is taught in school. She gathered some important people together in her home to hear Malinowski’s ideas, and to assist in his fund raising.


Malinowski got right to the point. “Why am I worried about the local school board race? The answer is the same as the reason I turned my life upside down to run for Congress. I am worried about what’s happening to our democracy.” School board elections are supposed to be nonpartisan, he said.


However, groups such as Moms for Liberty and the New Jersey Project were active in local races last year. Also, the Central Jersey Conservative Union (CJCU) right here in Montgomery was and still is involved. The union is calling “all hands on deck,” and recruiting like-minded people to attend Montgomery Township School Board meetings. Once at the meetings, they crusade for what they call “parental rights in raising and educating their children.” One of their issues is what they call “inappropriate sex education standards being forced on students and parents by woke legislators and the state Board of Education.”


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At the May 23 Montgomery School Board meeting, about 25 residents spoke during the public comment session, some spewing hateful words and accusing the school educators of recruiting students to be queer. Board members also have been called Communists, racist against white people, and pedophiles. Malinowski says, “I think our slogan should be, make school board meetings boring again.” Seriously, though, he says it is important for people who support their school’s educators to attend the board meetings. “Sometimes you have to expose what is happening to the larger community. Districts that have started to do that have completely changed the mood.”


In the Montgomery school board race this November, the Conservatives could win. Someone needs to organize a group and inform voters so they know who the book banners are. Malinowski’s political action group is working to organize bipartisan groups, Democrats and Republicans. “Candidates we will support have to be pro-public schools and against censorship, that’s it,” he said. “I want to make sure that candidates have the resources to talk to the voters in their communities, to let them know they are the good guys. Candidates hiding behind slogans like, Parental Rights, are backed by national right wing organizations that are banning books about Rosa Parks and unicorns.”


He stresses that parents need to trust their kids with the freedom to learn, and our teachers with the freedom to teach. Now, more than ever, teachers need to teach children to think critically so they can grow up and discern fact from fiction, he said. The majority of parents in our school districts are sensible and understand the biggest threat to our kids is not the library. They need to pay attention to what is going on with the local school board before its too late. The threats are from guns, from mental health, not books, and not teachers.


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