Probe of national group's role in New Trier seminar urged
A group known as Parents of New Trier wants the school board to investigate a non-profit national education advocacy group's involvement in North Trier’s Seminar Day on February 28.
Betsy Hart, one of the 400 parents involved in the parents group, delivered a letter to the New Trier Board of Education on March 20 asking for an explanation as to why Stand for Children Illinois, the state affiliate of the national group, was allowed to "secretly insert itself into the local New Trier controversy around Seminar Day."
“The statement was not received well by the board; they did not like it,” Hart told North Cook News.
The statement specifically targeted Mimi Rodman, executive director of Stand for Children Illinois, alleging that she spread false information about Parents of New Trier.
Rodman is usually present at school board meetings.
Hart said Stand for Children Illinois accused Parents of New Trier of being against Seminar Day, which she said was not the case.
“We were for Seminar Day," she said. "We just wanted to see it expanded.”
Rodman created a petition that included more than 6,000 signatures from supporters of Seminar Day. The petition asked parents whether they would support a school seminar on civil rights, but did not mention the political stance of the speakers, which were nearly exclusively liberal.
Hart said she expects a response to her group's letter.
"I think somebody made a good case for us, and we got a note saying they will look into it," she said.
In the letter, Hart said Parents of New Trier also disputed Stand for Children Illinois’ alleged policy violations.
“Stand for Children Illinois worked with the school to help shut us down," Hart told the North Cook News. "They were violating their own charter. It was a very real attack.”
The Stand for Children’s national website states that its mission is to “Educate and empower parents, teachers, and community members to demand excellent public schools.”
Speakers at Seminar Day held workshops to discuss protests, activism and “Blackenomics 101” with students. According to the school, New Trier wanted “to promote understanding of civil rights, not to promote the philosophy of one political party or another.”
More than 900 students skipped the event 20 percent of the students at Northfield and Winnetka campuses were reportedly absent that day.
Several parents as well as Liberty Justice Center President Pat Hughes have spoken out against the event. On an edition of radio talk show Illinois Rising, Hughes said he would not allow his own children to attend.
"Never," he said. "Because it's political indoctrination."
In fact, a fire marshal was required to attend the February 28 school board meeting where the event was to be discussed because of the size of the crowd, which was estimated at 800.
Several critics who voiced opposition to the event said it failed to provide a conservative voice.
“Stand for Children is all about facilitating conversation between parents and schools, so why weren’t they helping us?” Hart asked.
Hart hopes the board will investigate the organization’s involvement and its alleged attempts to repress the parents group, she said.
“A lot of people were intimated by Stand and were afraid to stand up to them,” she said. “Parents need to know what really happened and know they can get involved.”
In a Facebook post, Rodman said Stand for Children “had nothing to do with Seminar Day.”
In addition to the letter to the board, the Parents of New Trier also sent a letter to Stand for Children’s national leadership.