Kenosha Unified School District has been besieged by dozens of book challenges by members of the anti-LGBT extremist group MassResistance since Caleb Laitinen and Blaise Mahoney announced the formation of Kenosha MassResistance at the August KUSD school board meeting. They indicate they have over 200 book challenges they plan to file. Anti-LGBT group Moms for Liberty also has a list of hundreds of books they want removed from schools.

The Wisconsin ACLU is now involved, concerned for the 1st Amendment rights of students "to receive information from various viewpoints, even challenging perspectives and views that may not sit well with conservative majorities," said the Wisconsin ACLU's legal director Tim Muth.

What has drawn their scrutiny to KUSD? "We are particularly troubled by the dangerous anti- LGBTQ+ rhetoric accompanying much of the recent book-banning advocacy” said Muth.

You can read further down this blog for samples of MassResistance's anti-LGBT rhetoric.



Kenosha's Mayoral Candidates Speak Out Against MassResistance and Book Banning

The ACLU is not the only ones concerned about the extremism of anti-LGBT book banners in Kenosha.

Kenosha's mayoral candidates have all spoken out against this kind of extremism.

KUSD already provides a process for parents who are anxious about books to control what books their own child can access at school.

Their book banning efforts are not just targeting LGBT books and are not just harmful to LGBT children - they are also going to funnel money away from our children's education.



Results of Recent Book Challenges Show KUSD Books Were Removed for Old Copyrights and Low Circulation, NOT Content

Several book challenges have been addressed by the KUSD library staff. A Freedom of Information Act filing showed that all of the removals in this graphic were due to outdated copyright dates or low circulation, (meaning they were old and they weren't being checked out). They were not removed due to inappropriate content as MassResistance has repeatedly implied in their social media posts. Libraries have limited space so part of KUSDs de-selection criteria is to remove old, unused books to clear shelves for newer content.

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And while they've stridently claimed at KUSD school board meetings and online that they aren't targeting LGBT content, MassResistance's and Moms for Liberty's targeting of the books below once again proves why they groups have been listed as an anti-LGBT hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.



KUSDs 1st Ad Hoc Book Review Committee Rejects MassResistance's Challenge of LGBT Book

In the first meeting of the KUSD Ad Hoc Book Review Committee for the book All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson, members of the committee voted in favor of keeping the book in KUSD schools, with only one dissenting vote. All Boys Aren't Blue is an award-winning memoire by the photojournalist Johnson who shared his memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first relationships.

The Ad Hoc Committee, made up of district administrators/librarians and Kenosha citizens, read, reviewed and discussed the book. They voted to keep the book and sent their recommendation to KUSD Superintendent of Schools, Jeffrey Weise.

Even with this democratic process involving multiple people, including KUSD parents, MassResistance refused to accept the results and instead chooses to target one KUSD's staff members who served on the committee:

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School Districts Nationwide Are Learning Book Challenges Can Be Extremely Expensive

"I'm a strong supporter of public education and I actually don't mind paying taxes to support our public schools. However, I am appalled that my taxes are being wasted to combat a campaign to limit what students can read," said Evan Davis, a Pennsylvania resident who spoke at school board meeting after watching the mounting cost of book challenges in his school district.

"I pay taxes in order to educate our youth – not to deny them educational freedom."

In November's election, Moms for Liberty candidates took huge loses across the country. And it's no surprise they are increasingly unpopular. They have spread chaos to schools and school districts since their rise in 2020.

And Kenosha's Mayoral candidates chose to issue statements about the harmful tactics of Kenosha MassResistance.



KUSD Taxpayers May Feel the Financial Pain of MassResistance and Moms for Liberty Book Challenges - and some of those costs may include legal fees and future lawsuits.

In response to the latest avalanche of challenges that have been filed with KUSD by members of Moms for Liberty and MassResistance, over 30 as of mid-November, the district will be required to form multiple ad hoc book review committees made up of school staff, librarians, administrators and parents.

As other school district's across the country are learning, book challenges can run tens of thousands of dollars - for every single book that is challenged.

The costs involved in a book challenge include purchasing copies of the challenged book for each committee member to review, and in some districts, may involve paying the hourly wage of school staff members and administrators to read the books, fill out the required paperwork, participate in meetings and make recommendations about the books.

Hidden costs may include the legal fees incurred by school districts like KUSD for consulting with attorneys about the book review process and the outcomes of recommendations of book review committees.

KUSD is now being scrutinized by the Wisconsin American Civil Liberties Union due to these book bans, which will likely increase KUSD's legal fees.



So How Much Have Other School Districts Spent on Responding to Book Challenges by Extremists?

The Spring Branch School District in Texas documented their costs on one of their book challenges. The district spent $30,119 and 226 staff hours reviewing a single challenged book.

In Northampton County, Pennsylvania, Nazareth Area School District officials estimate it would cost the district $109,931.74 to pay staffers to review 23 books challenged by Northampton County Moms for Liberty

Lewisville Independent School District estimated that it would take one hundred and fifty-eight hours and more than $3,000 to respond to their book challenge.

Elkhorn school district, west of Kenosha, has now received over 444 book challenges in this school year alone. Along with Kenosha Unified, the ACLU is now investigating what is happening there.

That's right: Your taxpayer dollars pay the salary of the school employees and administrators who are spending time reading books that have been challenged by just a handful of book banners in our district. And every hour school staff and administrators spend reading a challenged book, is an hour of other work they are not doing for the district.



KUSD Book Challenges Reflect the Conservative Conspiracy of 'Gender Ideology'

MassResistance has falsely claimed they are not anti-LGBT, but their social media posts and book challenges reveal the truth.

The latest round of book challenges submitted to KUSD are driven by the discomfort some right-wing conservatives feel about the idea of gender identity.

As women's rights expanded and protections were put in place for minority and LGBT people, 'gender ideology' was a term that was coined by the central governing body of the Catholic Church, the Holy See. It referred to a supposed global conspiracy to break apart traditional families and traditional values. Part of the conspiracy holds that educators provide books to children in order to turn them into transgender people.

The conspiracy of gender ideology reflects a typically religious anxiety over social change. It is reflected in the language of some of the book challenges: "sews (sic) confusion", "faith", "undermines parental authority."

Some religious conservatives also believe being LGBT is somehow bad, or sick or wrong. They mistakenly believe LGBT children choose their sexual orientation and choose their gender identity and that there is something inherently wrong with being an LGBT person. Book challenges use language such as: "confusing evil message", "can be damaging" to have children read about gender.

Because there is a belief that gender identities are inherently bad or a disordered existence, they believe children should not be able to read stories with LGBT people in them and those book should not be available to children and families that want them.

They also believe that even talking acknowledging gender identity is bad, that it somehow sexualizes children and is sexually 'grooming' them. The conspiracy is that teachers and people who support diverse books like the ones pictured below are using these books to build a relationship, to establish trust and build an emotional connection with children while they are at school so they can manipulate, exploit and sexually abuse them as well as convince them to become transgender.

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Even a Wisconsin community having a 'snow people' naming contest threw MassResistance into an anti-LGBT fit of rage on social media:

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A page also run by the leaders of MassResistance made their Christian extremist anti-LGBT sentiments clear:

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As did Karen Mahoney, the leader of Kenosha MassResistance, on her Twitter account when the Pope announced there may be a way for the Catholic Church to bless same-sex unions:

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So which "dangerous" books are currently being targeted by Kenosha MassResistance and Kenosha Moms for Liberty?

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Winner of the 2020 Stonewall Book Award

Best Books of 2019, Kirkus Reviews
Best Books of 2019, School Library Journal
Editors' Choices for Books for Youth, Booklist
Best of the Best Books of 2019, Chicago Public Library
Starred review, Kirkus Reviews
Starred review, Publishers Weekly
Starred review, Booklist
Starred review, School Library Journal

When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl's room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of his life that didn't fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life.

Then Mom and Dad announce that they're going to have another baby, and Aidan wants to do everything he can to make things right for his new sibling from the beginning--from choosing the perfect name to creating a beautiful room to picking out the cutest onesie. But what does "making things right" actually mean? And what happens if he messes up? With a little help, Aidan comes to understand that mistakes can be fixed with honesty and communication, and that he already knows the most important thing about being a big brother: how to love with his whole self.

Who filed this book challenge?

Amber Hand, member of Moms for Liberty

Reason for challenge:

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American Library Association 2021 Rainbow Book List Selection
When Max starts school, the teacher hesitates to call out the name on the attendance sheet. Something doesn’t seem to fit. Max lets her know the name he wants to be called by―a boy’s name. This begins Max’s journey as he makes new friends and reveals his feelings about his identity to his parents. Written with warmth and sensitivity by trans writer Kyle Lukoff, this book is a sweet and age-appropriate introduction to what it means to be transgender.

Who filed this book challenge?

Samantha Wille, member of Kenosha Moms for Liberty

The reason?

Call Me Max.jpg



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Rainbow List: Top Ten LGBTQ Books for Children and Teens, 2011-2023

Whenever Ari's Uncle Lior comes to visit, they ask Ari one question: "What are your words?" Some days Ari uses she/her. Other days Ari uses he/him. But on the day of the neighborhood's big summer bash, Ari doesn't know what words to use. On the way to the party, Ari and Lior meet lots of neighbors and learn the words each of them use to describe themselves.

Who filed challenge?

Samantha Wille, member of Kenosha Moms for Liberty

Reason for challenge?

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Mass Resistance has been targeting these award-winning children's books, and similar titles, on their social media

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Stonewall Children and Young Adult Literature Honor Award in 2015

Morris is a little boy who loves using his imagination. He dreams about having space adventures, paints beautiful pictures and sings the loudest during circle time. But most of all, Morris loves his classroom’s dress-up center ― he loves wearing the tangerine dress.

But the children in Morris’s class don’t understand. Dresses, they say, are for girls. And Morris certainly isn’t welcome in the spaceship some of his classmates are building. Astronauts, they say, don’t wear dresses.



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Julián Is a Mermaid was awarded the Stonewall Book Award and the Klaus Flugge Prize, and was highlighted in several "Best Of" lists.

While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself? Mesmerizing and full of heart, Jessica Love’s author-illustrator debut is a jubilant picture of self-love and a radiant celebration of individuality.



Extremists on the KUSD School Board

There are two Moms for Liberty members currently serving on the KUSD school board who support these book bans:

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Eric Meadows (l) with head of MassResistance, Caleb Laitinen

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Kristine Schmaling (l) with head of MassResistance, Caleb Laitinen

Angela Kretchmer is another Moms for Liberty member running for KUSD school board who supports book bans and who's fundraiser is screening of an anti-trans movie that has been banned on some social media platforms, labelled as misinformation and hate speech.

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Should Kenosha taxpayers have to foot the bill for the LGBT discomfort of a handful of right-wing extremists who indicate they plan to file hundreds of book challenges?

Caleb Laitinen Kenosha

Caleb Laitinen, MassResistance

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Karen Mahoney, MassResistance

Blaise Mahoney.jpg

Blaise Mahoney, MassResistance

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Kevin Kelly Hutchinson, right

who obtained KUSD student directory information as part of his effort to ban books

Amber Hand.jpg

Amber Hand, Moms for Liberty



As the book challenges by members of Kenosha MassResistance and Kenosha Moms for Liberty continue to mount, KUSD school district will have to continue to form ad hoc book review committees, consult with attorneys and respond to scrutiny by the Wisconsin ACLU regarding possibly violations of student's 1st Amendment rights.

The extremism of MassResistance and Moms for Liberty harms our schools and our communities.

School Board.jpeg

Pay attention to next April's KUSD School Board race. There are four KUSD school board openings on the ballot on April 2nd, 2024.

There are FOUR pro-public school, common sense candidates running for KUSD school board:

Todd Price (incumbent)

Mary Modder (incumbent)

Sabrina Landry

Angela Cassity

But...

There are FOUR Moms for Liberty aligned candidates also running for KUSD school board:

Angela Kretchmer

Bob Tierney

Brian Thomas

John Kim

Moms for Liberty has been identified as an anti-government extremist group because they:

  • engage in disruptive tactics at government meetings (including here in Kenosha);
  • have repeatedly quoted Hitler;
  • their social media posts, policies and practices target teachers, school officials and the U.S. Department of Education;
  • members of the organization have been arrested or issued restraining orders for their attacks on educators;
  • they advance conspiracy theories; and spread “hateful imagery and rhetoric against the LGBTQ community;
  • have attempted to eliminate books and teaching around race in America and the Civil Rights Movement;
  • leaders in the national organization have close ties to these extremist groups: The Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, QAnon and white Christian nationalists. Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio once boasted that Moms for Liberty is “the gestapo with vaginas.”

The American Historical Association has condemned the group’s advocacy of censorship and legislation “that renders it impossible for historians to teach with professional integrity without risking job loss and other penalties.”



We should all welcome more active engagement of parents in their children’s schools. But Moms for Liberty are not just parents advocating for their own children. They are extremists trying to control and take away the rights of other people and they are making our schools — and our democracy — worse.

Public schools should reflect the values of ALL of the families whose children attend those schools.

Make sure to vote on April 2nd for candidates that value ALL parent's rights.