The local chapter of the national far-right group Moms for Liberty (M4L) — which made a name for itself in Florida by campaigning on a fictitious moral panic around whether books and curricula with LGBTQ and racially diverse characters and themes belong in public schools — has been active in Boulder County for over a month.
In a Jan. 9 press release from M4L, Boulder County chapter chair Sameer Brenn wrote, “We are happy to launch our chapter to help parents that felt isolated and shut out feel heard and understood. Our priority is our children, and we will fight to preserve our rights.”
Brenn’s resume is packed with tech sector leadership experience, including time as a software engineer on staff at Twitter in downtown Boulder. He also held a coveted “Entrepreneur in Residence” position at the University of Colorado Boulder.
I’ve been reporting on M4L nationally for about a year, and as I’ve watched chapters pop up in counties from Florida to California, I’ve taken pride in the fact that Boulder and Longmont have remained untouched. Until now.
The organization claims that since January 2021, at least 260 local chapters now exist and include more than 110,000 members. Today in Florida, where the 501(c)(4) is nationally headquartered, teachers are de-shelving their classrooms of books in order to comply with guidelines in HB 1467, which M4L members helped craft. Local chapters have also been successful in helping M4L members get elected to school boards across the country in order to micromanage the removal of books the group considers “inappropriate.” The book rating site BookLooks is a M4L project that helps local chapters identify such books and offers language to use for school district book reconsideration forms.
To assume other chapters won’t take a play from the same book if given the chance would be a miscalculation, to say the least.
Boulder County is one of the latest local chapters to be officially recognized. M4L is known for rallying behind a shared belief system that conservative values should be adopted by all parents and community members. But local chapters appear to develop community flavors. The Boulder chapter of M4L didn’t respond to requests for information on its specific goals.
However, a flyer circulating conservative education groups on social media hints that Boulder’s chapter of M4L is following a well-worn path. The flyer shows Boulder M4L vice chair Anne Greene was a guest speaker at a Feb. 5 meeting of the St. Vrain Awareness Alliance (SVAA), which purports to advocate for “a solid, fact-based education in history, science, math, writing, and literature that is grounded in the American principles of liberty and equality for all.” Speaking with Greene was Julie Ramirez, chair of the Weld County chapter of M4L, and Ted Mische, chairman of the National School Board Coalition. While a Google search for “National School Board Coalition” brings up zero hits, Mische’s bio on the SVAA flyer claims he “vets potential school board candidates” and “also trains school board campaign teams and teaches school board campaign strategies” while traveling “nationally helping conservatives get elected to school boards.” In August of 2021, Mische posted on the website of FEC United, a conservative group in Colorado with an affiliated militia, calling for members to fill school board seats: “We need strong Christians controlling our kids (sic) future.”
Ramirez was a 2022 graduate of the Leadership of the Rockies program, which, despite claiming to be nonpartisan, is an associate member of the State Policy Network, a group of right-wing think tanks. Her bio for the SVAA meeting includes a quote: “I don’t back down when I have to stand for my principles, my Faith (sic), and my family.”
On a national level, M4L is a major player in the education reform movement. Its national leaders have been effective in lobbying state governments to adopt policies that criminalize information access, particularly as it relates to LGBTQ and racially diverse histories and identities. As a community that is mostly white and affluent, it’s critical for Boulder to stay vigilant.
Aligning oneself with an organization that believes there’s no room for discussion of race, gender or sexual orientation in our schools is dangerous. Members of M4L turn a blind eye to the imbalances of power and systemic abuses that marginalized communities endure. M4L supporters are not the victims — they’ve aligned themselves with the perpetrators, past and present.
Claire Woodcock is a graduate student in the Media & Public Engagement (MAPE) program at the University of Colorado Boulder and an independent journalist writing about the politics of information for Vice’s Motherboard.