Moms for Liberty-endorsed school board members in Hamilton County, Indiana — where the group's chapter has drawn attention for uncritically quoting Adolf Hitler in a newsletter — just bought out the contract of their district’s first Black superintendent and ended her tenure following “a bitter fight over social and political issues." Community members say the circumstances surrounding her resignation suggest she was forced out by the Moms for Liberty-dominated board.
Hamilton Southeastern Schools (HSE) hired Yvonne Stokes as superintendent in 2021, making her the district’s first Black superintendent. But her appointment was immediately met with opposition from a small, vocal group of community members who protested outside of HSE’s headquarters ahead of Stokes’ hiring.
In 2022, HSE’s school board election became a Moms for Liberty electoral success story when candidates endorsed by the far-right “parental rights” group successfully won four school board seats and, subsequently, control of the seven-member board.
The HSE Moms for Liberty candidates (Tiffany Pascoe, Juanita Albright, Dawn Lang, and Ben Orr) ran on a slate and raised roughly $20,000 each — substantially more money than their competitors, according to a review of public campaign finance reports. The Moms for Liberty slate also had national endorsements, unified messaging, and high-dollar fundraisers.
Prior to becoming a school board member, Orr was present in the aforementioned crowd of protesters opposing Stokes’ hiring. The IndyStar captured a photo of Orr holding a “VOTE NO” sign outside of HSE headquarters.
Stokes’ vision of equity at HSE clashed with the new Moms for Liberty-controlled school board, and she “faced pushback for diversity and inclusion efforts.” The new board made “swift changes, including removing microaggression language from student handbooks and ending a district wide survey on mental health.”
Stokes submitted her resignation to the board in September 2023, nine months before her contract was set to expire. Her separation agreement reportedly includes a nondisclosure agreement and forbids her from suing the district.
According to Hamilton Southeastern Schools Education Association President Abby Taylor, the HSE school board accepted Stokes’ resignation at an “unexpected meeting with no context or agenda” which also had “an unusual start time” that prevented community members and teachers from attending. According to Axios, Stokes was not present at the meeting.
Community members attending the meeting claimed that Stokes was pushed out of her position and forced to resign.
According to WISH-TV, one resident, Norma Johnson, addressed the board directly, saying:
“(You’re) a bunch of racists. To do what you did to that woman? That is not right. You have made her life miserable ever since she took that position, it is no secret you did not want her here.”
Johnson added, “I’m upset because of the way they did this to her. It is not right, you know, they forced her to resign, they made it impossible for her to do her job.”
Another community member, Stephanie Hunt, accused the board of creating a “toxic work environment for every minority educator in HSE Schools.”
This isn't the first Moms for Liberty-controlled school board that's been hostile to an administrator who disagrees with the group's bigoted agenda. In Berkeley County, South Carolina, Moms for Liberty-backed school board members fired the district’s first Black superintendent and banned critical race theory within two hours of taking office.