School board meetings across the country have become increasingly contentious as right-wing media champion this new battleground for political energy and stoke outrage over parental rights, school policies, and curricula. Now, Media Matters has identified at least 860 right-wing parents groups on Facebook, including at least six specific networks, that have amplified right-wing ideological agendas related to school policies and even organized protests at board meetings.
There were real frustrations among some parents as COVID-19 forced school shutdowns and other public health restrictions, but right-wing media exploited and amplified these frustrations as a partisan talking point, and national groups provided funding, resources, and a robust social media apparatus. Now, these complaints have evolved into a broader campaign around so-called “parental rights” -- opposing mask policies, vaccine mandates, LGBTQ rights, sex education, and so-called “critical race theory.” (“Critical race theory” or CRT is an academic concept that right-wing media, politicians, and think tanks turned into an umbrella term for teaching about race and American history.)
Discussions of CRT and other school-related policies ramped up in April and May and continued into election season, with the topics becoming key issues in local races across the country -- just as right-wing media and conservative activists wanted. And one hot spot was Loudoun County in northern Virginia, which gained national attention and became the epicenter of Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin’s anti-CRT platform. Fox News and other right-wing media outlets helped by highlighting Loudoun County parents and community members who agreed with Youngkin, presenting them as simply concerned parents when they were actually Republican strategists, conservative think-tankers, or right-wing media figures.
Some of the Loudoun County organizing took place on Facebook, where groups worked on rallies, joined efforts to recall board members, planned to attend or speak at board meetings, and made other calls to action. These groups include LCPS Conservative parents Group - Conservative Parents of Loudoun County, RECALLED BETH BARTS Loudoun County School Board, LCPS “Anti-Racism” Plan the Truth They Don't Discuss, and LCPS discussion group.
But these Loudoun County groups are just a few examples within a larger ecosystem of right-wing parents groups pursuing related concerns on Facebook. In fact, there are hundreds of these groups, with hundreds of thousands of members combined, including six networks with dozens of groups each.
Hundreds of right-wing parents groups are pushing right-wing culture wars
Messaging related to “parental rights” issues has ramped up on Facebook, with hundreds of right-wing parent groups amplifying anti-mask, anti-vaccine, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-critical race theory agendas. At the time of publication, we found at least 860 right-wing parents and school-related groups that are active, with at least 717,000 combined members.
The numbers of these groups has grown even since our last reporting. In June, Media Matters identified 64 groups dedicated to opposing “critical race theory” and another 187 right-wing parent groups on Facebook, many of which formed to combat supposed “liberal indoctrination” in schools more generally and have shifted focus toward CRT. In August, we identified 171 anti-mask groups, including 88 -- or over 50% -- that were created between April and July 2021; nearly 60% of the new groups were focused on children and/or schools.
Now, we have identified 860 right-wing parent and school-related groups that are active. Among these are 534 groups that are dedicated to conservative causes generally. Other groups are dedicated to opposing critical race theory, comprehensive sex education, and COVID-19 school policies. Overall, we found:
- 125 anti-mask groups.
- 116 groups opposing critical race theory.
- 34 anti-vaccine groups.
- 21 groups opposing vaccine mandates.
- 17 groups opposing comprehensive sex education.
- 13 groups that were focused on reopening schools.
Some of these groups have also been involved in organizing events and activities focused on various school policies, including filing lawsuits and attending or speaking at board meetings.
Media Matters has identified at least six networks of right-wing parents groups
Among the hundreds of right-wing parents groups we analyzed, we found at least six networks -- or a set of groups affiliated with the same organization or administrators -- with dozens of groups each. Media Matters previously reported on three of these networks and the numbers they had at the time: No Left Turn in Education with at least 64 Facebook groups, Parents’ Rights in Education with at least 32 Facebook groups, and United States Parents Involved in Education with at least 26 Facebook groups.
Since June, membership in those three networks has grown and we have also identified another three networks of active parents groups:
- No Left Turn in Education’s 72 private groups have at least 30,000 combined members.
- Parents’ Rights in Education’s 51 groups have at least 67,000 combined members.
- United States Parents Involved in Education’s 30 groups have at least 19,000 combined members.
- Teach 1776 & Liberty 🗽 In Schools’ 23 public groups have at least 500 combined members.
- Moms for Liberty’s 135 private groups have at least 66,000 combined members.
- #PurpleForParents’ 78 groups -- 24 of which are private -- have at least 15,000 combined members.
These networks push parental rights and other conservative causes.
These parent groups are all pushing right-wing culture war issues, regardless of the group’s stated focus
Even as groups are dedicated to pushing certain right-wing narratives -- i.e. masks, vaccines, ivermectin, election results, “critical race theory,” etc. -- members often post other right-wing content within the groups.
For instance, members are also pushing anti-mask and anti-vaccine rhetoric and events in groups focused on opposing “critical race theory”:
Members are also pushing rhetoric and events against “critical race theory” in anti-mask and anti-vaccine groups: