Due to dozens of book challenges filed by members of the right-wing extremist groups MassResistance and Moms for Liberty, including against sweet children's books, the Kenosha Unified School District has been forced to form Ad Hoc Book Review committees to evaluate the numerous books these groups have chosen to challenge to-date. This is part of a wave of conservative book challenges that have been sweeping the nation.

Many of the book challenges filed by MassResistance and Moms for Liberty, as well as their social media posts, have focused on books with an LGBT focus, which is not surprising as both groups are anti-government extremist groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center, the nation's oldest and most respected civil rights watchdog, which was instrumental in defunding the KKK, warns about the harmful activities of both of these groups.

You can read more about the activities they've been engaged in in Kenosha here.

You can read statements from some of Kenosha's mayoral candidates about their activities here.

You can read why its important to have books dealing with LGBT topics and sensitive subjects here and here.

KUSD already provides a number of process to give parents who are anxious about books and their content a way to monitor and control their own children's reading. You can read more about that here.

The Freedom to Read is protected by the Library Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution.

Every parent has the right to decide what their own child can and cannot read. No one has the right to make that decision for every other parent.

**It should be noted that NONE of the leaders of MassResistance who are filling these book challenges have children that attend KUSD schools.



ACLU KUSD book bans

Actions of MassResistance and Moms for Liberty Have Attracted the Attention of the Wisconsin ACLU to KUSD

The extreme number of book challenges filed by MassResistance and Moms for Liberty has drawn the attention of the Wisconsin ACLU to KUSD school district.

According to the ACLU, “Book banning has historically been used to marginalize underrepresented and disempowered voices and communities. We are particularly troubled by the dangerous anti- LGBTQ+ rhetoric accompanying much of the recent book-banning advocacy,” said Tim Muth, interim legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin.

According to KUSD's records, despite numerous book challenges filed by members of these groups, their claims to have succeeded in removing books could not be substantiated by documents obtained from KUSD.

KUSD has been successfully sued in the past for violating the rights of an LGBT student, costing the district hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.



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Book Removal Claims by MassResistance Questionable

Because school libraries have limited space, every year school librarians participate in a deselection process, which involves reviewing the books in the library to see if they should stay or go. This process is called 'weeding.' Every year, some books are removed, or 'deselected' in order to make room for new book titles.

KUSD's professionally trained librarians choose books for school libraries based on a number of criteria, including topics to meet the various needs and interests of a wide range of students and books that have received positive reviews. Librarians also evaluate what books belong in school libraries at which grade level.

KUSD's professionally trained librarians also participate in a deselection process annually to make sure KUSD's library books are in good shape physically, deal with topics that appeal to a wide range of student interests and that the books are checked out regularly. Books that do not meet these three criteria are removed by KUSD librarians. It is just one of the many important jobs carried out by district librarians.

During KUSDs annual book weeding this year, librarians chose to include in their review process book titles which have been making news. As a result, three titles were either removed or restricted during that process. It is expected that the Wisconsin ACLU will be looking into that decision-making process as well.

MassResistance has claimed responsibility for those book titles having been removed in their social media posts.

A Freedom of Information Act request filed with KUSD seems to support KUSD's claim that the books were removed during KUSDs routine weeding process and not in response to a formal challenge by members of MassResistance, despite their social media claims.



Results of first formal KUSD Book Challenge Review:

a Rejection of MassResistance's Anti-LGBT stance

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An Ad Hoc Book Review Committee, made up of parents/community members and KUSD staff has rejected a formal book challenge brought by Karen Mahoney, one of the leaders of Kenosha MassResistance. There have been at least 38 challenges filed so far, so KUSD has long way to go in responding to the complaints filed by right-wing extremists.

Some school districts have found these challenges to be extremely expensive. While KUSD to-date is not financially compensating KUSD staff members who will participate in the book review process, there are legal fees likely involved in preparing for the process as well as now responding to the investigation by the ACLU of Wisconsin into these book challenges.

Karen Mahoney, who filed this challenge, has no children attending KUSD schools.

You can see Karen Mahoney's book challenge to All Boys Aren't Blue below:

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All Boys Aren't Blue has won multiple awards since it's publication and is a memoir by the author of growing up Black and queer. From the author's memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.

Like many of the titles challenged and vilified by MassResistance and Moms for Liberty, it deals with LGBT content and that LGBT content is specifically cited in Mahoney's challenge.



The Committee's Decision Shows the Value of All Boys Aren't Blue

The committee voted in favor of keeping All Boys Aren't Blue in KUSD libraries, citing its value.

One of the committee members stated:

"Wow, I don’t think I have read a more honest, powerful or moving memoir. It touches on many topics–grief, family dynamics, racism, sexual assault, homophobia, gender expectations, death, and sexuality–with the ultimate message being one of HOPE. The author tells of his experience as a queer black youth and the experiences and struggles with the “system” and society–being black, being a young black boy you who likes sports and double-dutch, being black in predominantly white high school and being black in college and still no like him to talk to or understand what he was going through. I thought about myself as a teen growing up–when I had questions about a boy liking me or my first kiss or any relationship stuff, I could talk to my sister or friends. This author was surrounded by family and friends and had NO ONE. How many of our students have NO ONE? The parts in question tell of the author’s experience being molested by a cousin when he was 13 years old and his first consensual sexual encounter in college. These events in the book are not overly obscene sexual encounter or explicit and are appropriate for high school students as suggested in the professional reviews and it complies with the KUSD selection policy for library materials. It is apparent both of these situations were included in the story to show what the author was feeling and experiencing but to also help teens who many have encountered a similar situation. THIS book was written in hopes of educating everyone and helping those struggling in the LGBTQ+ community and let them know they are not alone. The author states there isn’t always a solution and his own struggles are ongoing but he is thriving and through this book wants every LGBTQ+ teen to know they can and will thrive too! Stated this book is in compliance with policy 6620 and selection criteria."

The majority of committee members voted that the book met all of the selection criteria to remain in KUSD high school libraries, with only a Moms for Liberty committee member disagreeing, claiming the book "grooms students to a political agenda."

Members of the committee also discussed the fact that the school district already provides KUSD parents with a way to monitor and control their own children's reading and that the book is not required reading for any student. The discussion also included the fact it is important for public school libraries to include all viewpoints and books must be read holistically (in their entirety) in determining their value. (In addition to overwhelmingly targeting LGBT content in their social media posts, Members of MassResistance and Moms for Liberty typically cherry-pick from a couple of pages in LGBT books that deal with sexuality to drive their political agenda rather than reading the entire book and considering its value in that context.)

As the district explained to committee members:

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What's the Political Agenda of MassResistance:

Anti-LGBT extremism permeates their activism

The anti-LGBT extremism of the leaders of MassResistance, who are all Catholics, is obvious from tweets and retweets by their leader, Karen Mahoney, in response to Pope Francis saying the Catholic Church may bless same-sex unions:

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The organization uses their social media platforms to post against LGBT people and book content, even the sweetest children's stories:

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Who are the leaders of WI MassResistance?

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Karen Anne Mahoney, Kenosha

Caleb Laitinen Kenosha

Caleb Laitinen, Kenosha

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Blaise Mahoney, Kenosha

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Kevin 'Kelly' Hutchinson

Also involved is Kevin 'Kelly' Hutchinson, who obtained thousands of KUSD family contacts provided for the KUSD student directory, which he says he intends to use in his book banning efforts.

You can read more about that here.



Who leads Kenosha's Moms for Liberty Chapter?

Amanda Nedweski

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Amanda Nedweski founded Kenosha's Moms for Liberty chapter. She used the media attention over her organizations shutting down KUSD school board meetings in Kenosha to ride into elected office as a Kenosha County Board Supervisor in 2022. That same year, she was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly, where she has unsuccessfully championed a bill to take away LGBT parent's rights to seek healthcare for their trans children.

Amber Infusino

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Amber Infusino is the current leader of Kenosha's Moms for Liberty Chapter.

She is pictured here at Moms for Liberty national conference in Pennsylvania this summer.

Angela Kretchmer

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Angela Kretchmer, a candidate for KUSD school board.

Kretchmer featured the showing of an anti-trans movie as her first candidate fundraiser.

Eric Meadows

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Eric Meadows and MassResistance leader, Caleb Laitinen

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Eric Meadows, back center, ran for and won a seat on the KUSD school board with support from his group, Moms for Liberty.

Meadows promoted a highly partisan right-wing agenda while on the board, advocating for book bans and even stated he felt the breakup of the 'traditional family' (which he went on to define a two-parent household raising children) is causing society to collapse (ignoring the fact that Kenosha is made up of many people and families that would fail to meet his definition.)

Meadows is now running for Kenosha County Board in District 18, the seat currently held by Jeff Wamboldt.

Fortunately Justine Hammelev-Jones, a former school teacher who believes in the value of all people and all families, is running to be elected to District 18.



Moms for Liberty attempts reBrand:

Awake Wisconsin/Awake Americans

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Moms for Liberty has undergone an extreme hit to their 'brand' with multiple sexual scandals among its leadership, including the same-sex relationships the organization actively opposes; the revelation the organization has chosen to quote Hitler on more than one occasion, and their big losses nationwide in school board races.

The same right-wing conservatives involved in Moms for Liberty appear to now be involved in an attempted rebrand to Awake Americans.

Same old extremism - Different logo.




What's Next for KUSD and right-wing book challenges?

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Due to its current policy, KUSD is forced to form an Ad Hoc Book Review Committee in response each of the many book challenges being filed by members of MassResistance and Moms for Liberty. Each time a committee forms, its members will have to go through the same review process involving meetings, reading the book and determining whether each book meets the district's criterion to remain in the library; despite the fact these are books which were selected by KUSD's professionally trained library staff to meet the needs and interests of the wide variety of students at KUSD and despite the fact most of the people challenging these books do not have kids in the KUSD school district.

As of November, members of MassResistance and Moms for Liberty had filed almost 40 book challenges.

These challenges take time and waste district resources that should be going to educate KUSD students.

Those challenges also ignore the fact that KUSD already provides multiple ways for KUSD parents to monitor and control their own child's reading selections.

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So What can YOU do?

Show up and speak at KUSD School Board meetings each month in support of diverse books and against book bans.

Regular School Board meetings will usually be held on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 7:00 P.M. at the Educational Support Center, 3600 52nd Ave Kenosha.

You can sign up for KUSD notifications here.

You can email dewing@kusd.edu to request to speak during citizen's comments or sign up to speak at the meeting.

You can watch KUSD school board meetings online at the District's YouTube channel.

Pay attention to the KUSD school board race. There is information about candidates at the end of this link.

There are candidates aligned with Moms for Liberty running. There are also four candidates who believe our public schools can be both successful and inclusive places for all students.

If you live within the boundaries of the KUSD school district, pledge to vote on April 2nd.

You can find registration and voting information here.



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We should all welcome more active engagement of parents in their children’s schools.

But MassResistance and Moms for Liberty are not parents who just advocate for what they believe is best for their own children: They are extremists who only support the rights of parents who think like they do.

By trying to control and take away the rights of other parents, they are making our schools — and our democracy — worse.