“This is a movement that was formed online, so it’s not so much that these activists are moving online so much as they are moving the target from schools to teachers and librarians,” Friedman says. “And it’s not going to stop there.”
Vera has seen the impact of this firsthand. In the week since the pride book event, she says, she has been bombarded with threatening Facebook messages and phone calls. In an effort to protect herself, she now carries Mace and has installed home security cameras.
Other conservative groups are also tracking teachers’ social media accounts. Moms for Liberty and its offshoot group, Moms for Libraries, have been engaging in this type of monitoring and have also started distributing “liberty-minded books” with conservative publishing house Brave Books, which claim to “empower this generation’s youth with conservative values” while “glorifying the Lord in all we do.”
The Leadership Institute is another conservative group that has justified this tactic. “Anyone who wades into the public discourse using social media is presenting their personal or political views for all to see,” Matthew Hurtt, the director of graduate relations at the Leadership Institute, said in an email to me. “If teachers, administrators, and elected officials espouse objectionable views on social media, there is a good chance they are espousing those views in the classroom or in school board meetings.”
One clear pattern is emerging: educators who support teaching sex education and discussing LGBTQ issues are labeled “groomers.”
Gloria Gonzales Dholakia, a school board member in Leander, Texas, says she was called a groomer at a school board meeting that was broadcast online, leading to a slew of hateful comments. A man who attended the meeting made several highly personal remarks, including suggesting that Gonzales Dholakia’s husband, who was sitting just a few feet away in the room, must be abusive. “My kids were watching this online at home. I was so angry and was ready to quit,” she says.