The battle over the nation’s children – from flagrant indoctrination to forced masking – has emerged in the national spotlight during the last two years, becoming a widely-known issue as parents take matters into their own hands after years of the left maintaining a monopoly on the educational system, doing their best to keep the leftist agenda moving forward.
However, in the last year, the woke left’s agenda has been exposed, leading to massive conservative victories, as with Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) monumental victory in Virginia last November. Parents are fired up and taking power back, but this battle started years ago, as parents such as Bridget Ziegler waged a war against the radical left at the local level, even before it became a commonly known national issue. Ziegler shared her story in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News.
The Inner Workings
Ziegler, a mom of three and member of the Sarasota County School Board in Florida, has been at the helm of this fight since joining the board in 2014 – long before wokeness in school was a mainstream topic. At the time, she was the mother of an 8 month old and worked in the private sector, as she still does to this day. Her husband is heavily involved in politics, now serving as the vice chairman of the Florida GOP. But at the time, in 2014, a vacancy appeared on the school board, and he encouraged his wife to run, as she is “passionate” about children’s issues. She ultimately filed and former Gov. Rick Scott (R), now a Florida senator, appointed her at the time. She went on to win the election in a close race and stood out as a “staunch” supporter of school choice, which she said was more of a “taboo at the time.” But the union, she said, “just lost it.”
Ziegler said she began to see things that were “shocking” to her upon joining the board, as it operates very differently than the business world. She described going to the Florida School Board Association meeting, a chapter of the National School Board Association, and at the time the unions were suing the governor and legislature for taxpayer scholarships — something she advocated for. It was odd, she said, for them to utilize taxpayer dollars to send her to this conference where they were touting issues she was against. Seeing this, she and other conservative board members formed the Florida Coalition of School Board Members, which she described as a “small but mighty group” that passed a ton of legislation. While effective, she said the group did not grow exponentially, despite others showing their support, because there was “very much of an indoctrination to school board members, to policy makers.”
“When you get up there and are elected, you’re automatically part of this association and they tell you that your job is to support the superintendent. [It’s] not about protecting, supporting, representing taxpayers or focus on financial stewardship or … it as very much about no dissenting, very much groupthink, get in line,” she said, as this same tactic appears to be the common theme in school boards across the country. Many people, she continued, subscribe to it, even though they claim to be “conservatives.” But when they get on these boards, they “lose their backbone.”
“They’re typically in the minority and then they just wouldn’t fight for a lot of these issues,” she said, noting that many wanted to join the group but did not because they were nervous about losing their posts. Ziegler, however, a conservative firecracker in this realm, refused to go along with business as usual, paving the way for much of the mainstream exposure to the agenda items pushed by these radically left actors serving on school boards across the country as they dictate what children are exposed to in school.
The conservative group worked with the legislature and had 3-4 years of wins and ultimately dissolved, but reframed because they “knew something was there,” particularly with the battle over parental rights. Some participants branched off, such as Tina Descovich, who served as the group’s president, focusing on her group Moms for Liberty.
Ziegler, who said she never planned on going for a third term on the board, stuck around.
“I believe it’s so important and haven’t subscribed to the groupthink. I’ve been independent and been very consistent on my policies over the years. I think we do have a moment to really change the tide and all the things over the last six years that I’ve seen that are so incredibly broken, where people are not serving their community with the student’s best interest. It’s more about the system than it is the student,” she said, pointing to the “big educational industrial complex” and the millions that are “in this same game to protect the system.”
“And then you have the media that plays that role and protects the progressive left agenda that are being pushed in there, and also everyone wants to hide the — you know we can’t say anything negative about the school because then you’re anti-public school. It’s not about correcting issues,” she said.
“It’s about, your job as a school board member is to be a cheerleader, not to be someone that serves the public,” she added.
These school boards across the country often sneak in left-wing agenda items without parents knowing. Ziegler provided an example, pointing to the battle over the Parental Bill of Rights in 2018 in Sarasota County, as it embraced “gender diverse guidelines” as left-wing groups lobbied districts to adapt such “guidelines” – a term that helped them circumvent the board completely, robbing parents of a true say. These guidelines, Ziegler said, essentially stated that it was up to a student to determine what gender identity he or she wanted to go with and forbid staff to contact parents on this issue. She fought against this on the board, which fueled her drive to work with the legislature to draft the Parental Bill of Rights, which took three legislative sessions to pass in 2020.
“But now it’s very well known,” she said, noting that parents were being “systematically cut out of their parents’ education on purpose.”
But in 2020, the indoctrination in the school system continued to become more mainstream nationally as leftists became more emboldened and “aggressive,” partially triggered by the George Floyd protests. As another example of the left sneaking in their hidden agendas, Ziegler described a BrainPOP video— a program used in K-5 “heavily across the country,” which covers a myriad of topics for students and touts which she described as lots of propaganda. One video focused on the George Floyd protests, she said, with undertones about systemic racism and defunding the police. The video, she said, essentially told children that they need to act as an avenue for change.
“[It’s] basically a training video for social justice warriors,” she said, noting that another parent made her aware of the video, so she brought it to the attention of the superintendent. Many were not even aware of this video, she stressed, so it was pulled, although that triggered worries about censorship. These sort of issues continued to become more mainstream as some teachers in the district expressed concerns about professional development – which was supposed to focus on reopening schools – instead centering on training for white privilege and cultural responses.
All of these micro-wins have continued to pile up, causing a groundswell of parents to see what is happening and take back control of their children’s education. Ziegler credited Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for publicly standing up for parental rights, further nationalizing the issue.
A Crumbling Monopoly
Over the past year, these issues have come to the forefront nationally, serving as a driving force in elections. Between the radical Black Lives Matter agenda and nonessential anti-science coronavirus rules, parents have a clearer picture of the left’s long-held monopoly on their children’s education. And now, leftists are not sure how to handle it.
“Nationally, you see how concerned the left has become because they have had a full on monopoly on public K-12 education — if not all education as we see — and they’re going to extraordinary levels because for the first time, I think they do see it’s at risk.,” she said, pointing to what we are seeing in areas such as Virginia, San Francisco, California. The left, she said, is “pulling out all the stops,” even stooping as low as deeming concerned parents domestic terrorists.
These school boards, she stressed, are innately tied with the Democrat Party, doing their best to coordinate their moves—a stark reminder that change truly does begin at the local level – a reality easily forgotten in a world of national headlines and personalities.
“The coordination that I’ve seen at the local level with the Democratic Party at the national level and state level with our local school boards to — for the mask mandates, to stick it to Gov. DeSantis because it was more about a DeSantis/Biden thing than it was about safety — and then you see now that there is a very strategic, coordinated effort with these foundations,” she said, using Sarasota County as a prime example and walking through the shift she has seen in the last 2-3 years.
Typically, the district would utilize pilot programs through nonprofits, but recently, she said there is a shift where districts — instead of utilizing money they have through funding – will earmark salary positions and fund them through these foundations, giving them a “straight back door into school districts to push programs.”
“And then the district ultimately is overleveraged and then they garner control without being elected,” she said. Leaders such as DeSantis pushing back against the woke agenda has “triggered a lot of these foundations who used to work behind the scenes to double down and go all in,” she said, noting that it is happening in other districts as well.
The establishment media, in its efforts to protect the left’s agenda, has only exposed the radical left’s agenda more. One recent example is their coverage of the Parental Rights in Education bill, which critics and establishment media outlets falsely deemed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, despite the fact that the bill simply protects children from age-inappropriate classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity, applying to children in kindergarten through third grade.
“Bringing that up has been– I knew it was right,” she said of the discussions over gender identity. The left, she said, is “artful” in their branding when they try to push their agendas, but the “reporting has gotten so ridiculous where they’re pushing the left’s narrative.”
“They’re not [just] reporting on the left’s narrative. They’re pushing the left’s narrative, just the same way like the textbook material and all that stuff is not just covering historical aspects,” she said. “They’re pushing a narrative. And so that is why I believe there’s so much concern because there’s way more awareness to it and they worked for decades to really play this ground game.”
“And they have, between Gov. DeSantis being completely fearless when it comes to punching back, whether it be the media or education bureaucrats or the work school board members or the union, he’s not backing down and thank goodness,” she continued.
The more DeSantis pushes back, she continued, the more people get “excited and applaud,” but the left “who’s been in complete control for so long” is “going to extreme measures and like you see, you see the media kind of becoming unhinged and being reckless with their reporting.”
A “Wild” Moment
“If wasn’t on the school board — I don’t fault parents. I wouldn’t necessarily know who my school members were,” she said, speaking about the national awakening.
“I mean, I might because my family’s a little bit more politically active than the average person, but I understand that that’s how — I understand that’s why when COVID happened, people started to see and showed up to school board meetings and were met with complete disdain of which I had a front row seat to for years. They were shocked.”
It was something to behold as school board members kept “doubling down,” Ziegler explained. She said it was almost as if the school board members and the left “didn’t know how to change their behavior because they’ve been doing it so long and normally people burn out, they go away.”
That was not happening this time.
In her experience, Ziegler said it takes more time to see a change, “but they [the left] can’t help themselves because they’re so drunk on the power and shameless.”
“Because historically, they’ve been able to run out the clock,” she said, identifying that tactic as a basic in the playbook of education.
That’s what is “wild about this moment,” she said, as these issues she has been fighting for are finally mainstream. “It’s just like — I use this phrase a lot, but I feel like I was screaming in a crowded room but no-one would hear me.”
The Continued Fight
It will be “interesting” to see how this continues to play out moving forward, particularly ahead of the midterm elections, Ziegler noted. The battle against Critical Race Theory (CRT), for example, was fresh in Virginia, serving as a catalyst for Youngkin’s victory. But in Florida, parents were not subjected to two years of closures, remote learning, and forced masking (outside of 11 counties). DeSantis listened to parents and waged a war against it all, long before the Democrat Party and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decided to loosen mandates because they were getting crushed in the polls. But in other places in the country, she said, parents are grappling with some of those issues. Ultimately, she said it “remains to be seen” how this plays out in the future, as parents likely will not forget what the left put them through.
“It’s almost Marie Antionette-style ‘Let them eat cake,’” she said. “They’re so disregarding.” And still, people are still showing up – those who never voted or paid attention — “and those people are mobilizing and activating people,” she added.
Some parents, she said, may not be as vocal, but when it comes down to decision time, “it’s hard to forget the complete disregard that they were met with when it came to policy decisions impacting their children.”
The left is “going to try very hard to make them forget … and try to flip the script,” she warned, noting there are “still a lot of people who are just fed up with government institutions in and of itself.”
“And I think you’ll see more conservative and even moderates all in to see — certainly for someone like Gov. DeSantis and school board members willing to serve parents and serve the people,” she said.
However, Ziegler warned that the left will pull out all the stops to create their narrative and brand their opponents in a very particular way, “just like they do with DeSantis.”
They use extreme labels and see what sticks, she said.
“That is their playbook. And they do it well. And they play nasty” to maintain their power, she added.
Local Beginnings, National Results
While this movement made national headlines, there is still work to be done at the local level, as that is what has triggered so much of this change in awareness. Ziegler, for instance, has been in the minority since she has been on the “nonpartisan” school board, with the majority of school board members serving as “progressive liberal” members – the “norm” across the state and country, Ziegler explained.
However, that could soon change. Of the five school board seats in the county, three are up, including Ziegler’s, as she is running again. But the other two are not running for reelection. In other words, if Ziegler wins reelection and they flip just one of the open seats, they will successfully flip the entire board.
“And that’s big deal because we have, from a party standpoint again, the Republicans are very, from a conservative standpoint, very focused on school board and in Sarasota have the chairman of the party and the vice chairman of the party in Sarasota County” she said.
“Gov. DeSantis is obviously been a big champion of parental rights and has highlighted some of the work I’ve done which put even more emphasis on that race,” she added.