Vishal P. Singh
Chino Valley Unified School District President Sonja Shaw has rapidly become a rising star— both in the California Republican Party and the national right-wing movement opposing LGBTQ+ rights. The firebrand politician’s crusade against her district’s LGBTQ+ students has garnered significant media attention, and for good reason. In July, Shaw and her school board ruled in a 4-1 vote that Chino Valley Unified School District would now mandate teachers to force transgender and non-binary students out of the closet to potentially bigoted family members— a move that experts say will increase the likelihood for abuse, bullying, and self harm amongst impacted students. This comes after the same school board already banned LGBTQ+ Pride flags from district schools.
During the vote on whether the district would forcibly out transgender and non-binary students— the school board meeting was packed with right-wing activists from the Leave Our Kids Alone movement (who publicly call for young LGBTQ+ people to kill themselves) and even a handful of Proud Boys members and January 6th Capitol rioters.
Meanwhile— LGBTQ+ attendees in the meeting and a pro-LGBTQ+ student from the district were kicked out personally by Shaw. The chaotic meeting escalated until even State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who came to advocate for LGBTQ+ student rights, was forced out of the meeting by Shaw and police.
KTLA news legal analyst Alison Triessl has noted that Chino Valley Unified’s policy targeting LGBTQ+ students likely isn’t even legal. “It is at direct odds with the California Department of Education and seems to be at direct odds with the California constitution which allows minors to enjoy the right of privacy when it comes to their gender, identification, and notification.”
As a result of this debacle— California Attorney General Rob Bonta launched a civil rights investigation into Chino Valley Unified’s policy. “Students should never fear going to school for simply being who they are,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Chino Valley Unified’s forced outing policy threatens the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ students vulnerable to harassment and potential abuse from peers and family members unaccepting of their gender identity. Today’s announcement stresses our commitment to challenging school policies that target and seek to discriminate against California’s most vulnerable communities. California will not stand for violations of our students’ civil rights.”
Now that Sonja Shaw’s local political schemes are coming to fruition— she’s heading for the capital. No, not just the capital of California— but straight to Washington D.C. In Sacramento: she’ll be participating in far-right extremist rallies organized by January 6th Capitol rioter Denise Aguilar and her far-right Freedom Angels group. Shaw’s upcoming September trip to D.C. is even more consequential— and extreme. Sonja Shaw has been confirmed as a speaker at the Pray Vote Stand Summit— where she’ll be joined by far-right Republican congresswoman Mary Miller and transphobic athlete Riley Gaines Barker. The summit, which describes itself as a “national gathering of spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives” is organized by the Family Research Council, a powerful and shadowy evangelical think-tank and engine for far-right lobbying.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the Family Research Council as a hate group, noting that their “intention is to dehumanize LGBTQ+ people as the organization battles against LGBTQ+ rights. In the past, this included stances against same-sex marriage, hate-crime laws, anti-bullying programs and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.” Founded in 1983, the group has long pushed debunked anti-LGBTQ+ myths falsely portraying all queer people as “groomers” and “child sex abusers”— myths which are now seeing a huge mainstream resurgence.
In addition to their support for so-called “conversion therapy” (which is a process of torture used against LGBTQ+ people)— the Family Research Council made headlines in 2010 for being too far to the right on LGBTQ+ issues even for Republicans like Ted Cruz.
On June 3, 2010— the blog Joe. My. God. worked with a reporter from Gay City News and exposed Family Research Council for spending $25,000 to lobby Congress against condemning a bill proposed in Uganda that would punish gay people with the death penalty. The President of Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, praised the genocidal anti-LGBTQ+ legislation proposals in Uganda, calling them, “efforts to uphold moral conduct.” Perkins has ties to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens and paid for Ku Klux Klan member David Duke’s mailing list “for use in a Louisiana political campaign he was managing” according to SPLC. At the time, Republican members of Congress, like Ted Cruz, joined Democrats in condemning Uganda’s deadly anti-LGBTQ+ bills. But now, more than ten years later, it seems the Family Research Council has been playing the long game with regards to the Republican Party’s radicalization against LGBTQ+ existence, and their patience could be paying off.
Perkins has been president of the Family Research Council since 2003. He is the immediate past president of the secretive Council for National Policy, another right-wing dark money network. Chino Valley Unified School Board President Sonja Shaw is currently one of his favorite politicians. Shaw has been featured on Perkins’ video program, where Perkins compared her exploits to the experience of Jesus Christ.
The Family Research Council has been proudly promoting Shaw, even putting together a petition with over 9,000 signatures to thank Sonja Shaw to, as they say: “protect our children from the radical sexual agenda of the Left.”
There is no “radical sexual agenda of the Left.” There is only a human rights movement advocating protection of LGBTQ+ people from discrimination. The deadly impact of the Republican’s anti-LGBTQ+ moral panic is already manifesting.
According to the Trevor Project: 45% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered suicide last year and 20% of transgender and non-binary youth attempted suicide last year. The same report notes that support from family members was proven to significantly reduce the risks of suicide amongst LGBTQ+ youth.
Taking actions that are proven to increase abuse and suicidal ideations amongst LGBTQ+ youth does not “protect our children.”
Collaborating with activists that tell young LGBTQ+ people outside of an elementary school that they should have hanged themselves and that they should have “died in the ******* closet” does not “protect our children.”
And a local politician being pushed into the limelight of Washington D.C. by a designated hate group that supports state executions of LGBTQ+ human beings?
She definitely does not “protect our children.”