Teachers protest against a conservative group seeking to influence education

“Let the teachers teach,” protesters chanted along South Padre Island Drive in Flour Bluff on Saturday.

About 40 teachers and supporters gathered near the office of a conservative group, County Citizens Defending Freedom of Nueces County, to demonstrate against the group’s efforts to ban LGBTQ-themed books from school libraries, influence curricula and monitor teachers’ social media. They drew a crowd of around 20 counter-protesters.

Demonstrators included the Corpus Christi American Federation of Teachers; Texans for the right to read; League of United Citizens of Latin America, District 11; LULAC For TODOS; Coastal Bend Labor Council; Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education; and educators from ISDs in Callallen, Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Gregory-Portland, London, Tuloso-Midway and West Oso.

The protest was sparked by concerns over a flyer that appeared to advertise a volunteer training organized by citizens of the county advocating for the freedom of Nueces County to influence books and school library programs. A photo of the flyer began circulating on Twitter and Facebook last week.

County Citizens Defending Freedom is a national organization with a chapter in Nueces County. The local declined interview requests from the Caller-Times.

In a statement on Saturday, the chapter said its Educational Action Division aims to equip children with the “educational values ​​and resources” to “become an influential and positive member of our society.”

“Students have the right to a healthy childhood and education,” the statement said. “We help families by providing a level of oversight for decision makers in our school system and a platform for parents and concerned citizens to get involved.”

A woman holds a sign in support of County Citizens Defending Freedom along South Padre Island Drive in Flour Bluff near the organization's office Saturday, July 9, 2022.

The statement said the CCDF believes that “teachers’ self-published public content on social media is like an open window revealing your beliefs, interests, and actionable expressions.”

Nancy Vera, president of the Corpus Christi American Federation of Teachers, said she and other teachers are concerned that people monitoring their social media pages will steal personal photos of their children and “we don’t know what they are able to deal with it.”

In the wake of the Uvalde and Chicago shootings, Vera said, CCDF training sessions leave Corpus Christi vulnerable to violence. She also referenced a recent Facebook post from Nueces County Sheriff JC Hooper in which he appeared to mock Corpus Christi AFT’s gift of LGBTQ-themed books.

“It started with Sheriff Hooper with his post, and it escalated into banning books and controlling teachers,” Vera said. “Why would they trust teachers with guns and not with textbooks? This is the mistaken philosophy they have been brainwashed with.”

Protesters against County Citizens Defending Freedom and counter-protesters demonstrate at 10309 South Padre Island Drive on Saturday, July 9, 2022. CCDF, a conservative action group, has offered instructions to community members on how to monitor and influence the curriculum on topics such as sex education in local schools.

Marlena Villarreal, a volunteer pastor at Rock City Church, said she was a concerned grandmother about some books in Corpus Christi ISD school libraries.

Villarreal said a book called “It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robbie Harris depicts pornography. The illustrations in the book show three couples, heterosexual and homosexual, having sex.

Villarreal said the book was found at Los Encinos Elementary School and someone told him the book was on the school’s website.

“It was word of mouth,” Villarreal said.

The Caller-Times checked the school district‘s online library system and did not find the book at any of the schools.

Miranda Galvan, an elementary school teacher at Flour Bluff ISD, said she and her colleagues joined the protest because she believed teachers had the right to hold personal beliefs.

“I shouldn’t be afraid to be at something like this just because someone doesn’t like what I’m saying,” Galvan said.

Flour Bluff ISD elementary school teacher Miranda Galvan holds a sign along South Padre Island Drive in Flour Bluff near the Nueces County Freedom Defending Citizens Office Saturday, July 9, 2022. Galvan said she shouldn't be afraid to be at a protest because someone disagrees with their beliefs.

Galvan, who has been an educator for eight years, said each school year she tells her students that they have a voice and their voice is powerful.

“Controlling the things they read, the curriculum they learn, or the things they are exposed to only creates uneducated, narrow-minded future leaders,” Galvan said. “I don’t think (CCDF) understands the seriousness of what they are trying to do and how many people they are really affecting by trying to impose their beliefs on a whole group of people.”

Samuel Aundrá Fryer, a counter-protester, said he was there to “share the truth with individuals” and that children “need to be fully aware that there is a God who created them and loves them”.

Samuel Aundrá Fryer, right, debates with a protester against County Citizens Defending Freedom at 10309 South Padre Island Drive on Saturday, July 9, 2022. CCDF, a conservative action group, has instructed community members on how to monitor and influence the program on topics such as education in local schools.

Fryer joined the group of protesters and began to share his religious beliefs about it. He met educators who booed and chanted, “Separation of Church and State.”

The Corpus Christi AFT is “concerned about certain books and things that indoctrinate children into ways of life contrary to the truth,” Fryer said. “Whether it’s this LGBTQPIA-infinite mindset, or whether it’s a mindset of a transgender teaching kids that they’re in bad bodies and corrupting their minds, put that in schools so that children learn is a mistake.”

The protest began to dissipate after an hour and a half, but Vera said the “fight” was not over.

“I think if we don’t impose on them, they shouldn’t impose on us,” Vera said. “We are professionals, parents, taxpayers, and we will hold our elected officials to account. We are the majority. We believe in true freedom, not the freedom of those who only want their beliefs known.”


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John Oliva covers entertainment and community news in South Texas. Contact him at john.oliva@caller.com or Twitter @johnpoliva.

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